AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage announced Wednesday the State of Maine is moving forward with its plan to conduct drug tests of convicted drug felons who are applying for or receiving welfare benefits.
Over the last several months, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has focused on designing its drug-testing measures to ensure privacy and fairness, while reinforcing accountability and integrity in the program. The tests will be required of drug felons who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.
“Maine people expect their tax dollars to be spent supporting our most vulnerable citizens – children, the elderly and the disabled,” said Governor Paul LePage. “We must ensure that our tax dollars do not enable the continuation of a drug addiction. “TANF is a short-term benefit that assists families and children with the basic necessities. If someone tests positive for drugs, they are clearly putting their addiction ahead of their family’s needs. Being drug-free is a critical aspect of moving away from poverty and toward self-sufficiency. We must do all that we can to make ensure children’s needs are being met and that the TANF recipient has the best possible chance at economic independence.”
When a person applies for benefits, the individual must report whether he or she has a prior drug-related felony conviction. If the answer is yes, the State will schedule a drug test and notify the individual 24 hours prior to the actual test.
“Our rules are drafted according to the knowledge we have gained over the last several months. As a result, our drug testing program is based on best practices and aligns with federal law,’’ explained Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.
If a person tests positive, the individual will have the option to be tested a second time. At any time, an individual can avoid termination of benefits by enrolling in an approved and appropriate substance abuse program. Those who fail to disclose they are convicted drug felons will be found in violation of program rules and will face immediate termination of benefits.
The State’s rule will be published in August and must move through the rule-making process, which includes a public hearing.
August 6, 2014
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage announced Wednesday that the state ended the fiscal year with a surplus, which brings total revenue reserves to more than $90 million.
Improved fiscal management and reliable revenue forecasting are contributing factors for the flow of excess money. There is now a surplus of $39.1 million and an excess General Fund balance of $9.8 million.
“When I came to Augusta in 2011, I found that our state’s reserves had been cleaned out by the previous administration,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “We immediately went to work to pay our long overdue welfare debt to Maine’s hospitals, introduce long-term stability to the State’s finances and increase the balance of the budget stabilization fund, which is also called the rainy day fund.”
After the payments that are required as part of the statutorily required year-end “cascade” were made, the State concluded the most recent fiscal year with total reserves of $93.2 million.
The balance of the budget stabilization fund, a key focus of Governor LePage and rating agencies such as Moody’s Investor Services, has increased by more than $8 million after the year-end transfer, bringing the total balance to $68.3 million.
“My fiscal policy focuses on the next generation, not the next election,” said Governor LePage. “I campaigned on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, and my actions since day one have reflected a commitment to that pledge.”
After all year-end transfers, the State has $12.5 million in unappropriated surplus that will carry forward to be used in Fiscal Year 2015.
“With conservative cash management and reliable revenue forecasting, the State of Maine is in a sound financial position entering the new fiscal year,” said State Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen. “We still have much work to do. But under the leadership of Governor LePage, the State has made tremendous progress.”
July 30, 2014
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) have approved the Town of Fort Kent as Maine’s newest “Certified Business-Friendly Community.”
Fort Kent joins 26 other Maine cities and towns that have earned “Certified Business-Friendly” status. Qualifying for the certification requires that a community achieve a heightened level of distinction in its regular dealings with job creators, including such things as first-rate customer-service, effective business collaboration, efficient and affordable licensing and permitting and active public input.
“Congratulations to the Town of Fort Kent on a job well done,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “Fort Kent is committed to building and maintaining a strong economic base. The town has taken proactive steps to becoming a better partner with private industry through streamlined regulations and an overall open for business attitude. This approach not only makes Fort Kent more competitive, but all of Maine as well.”
“I am honored that Fort Kent has received this business-friendly recognition,” said Town Manager Donald Guimond. “Our goal is to build on Fort Kent’s growth and development and show that this honor is, in fact, well-deserved.”
The “Certified Business-Friendly Community” program, administered by DECD, encourages Maine municipalities to take a critical look at all areas of their business attraction strategy and examine ways the community interacts with businesses to promote new private investment. The Town of Fort Kent received its award based on some of the following factors:
• Adoption of a new comprehensive plan • Streamlined / more user-friendly permitting and regulatory process • Working collaboratively with business organizations, trade groups, educational institutions to promote economic development • Marketing of ‘America’s 1st Mile’ to attract new private investment and create brand identity • Successful use of revolving loan funds and tax increment financing to incentivize economic development
The “Certified Business-Friendly Community” program began in 2012. Since then, Maine’s list of “Certified Business-Friendly” communities has grown to include: Auburn, Augusta, Bath, Belfast, Biddeford, Brewer, Bucksport, Caribou, Cumberland, Ellsworth, Fairfield, Fort Kent, Guilford, Hermon, Kennebunk, Lewiston, Lincoln, Pittsfield, Poland, Presque Isle, Richmond, Saco, Sanford, South Portland, Topsham, Wells and Westbrook.
Each community is awarded a certificate of achievement, two MaineDOT road signs, and becomes a key part of Maine’s business attraction strategy.
June 24, 2014
Department of Economic and Community Development
AUGUSTA – In a robing ceremony conducted at the Kennebec County Superior Courthouse this afternoon, Governor Paul R. LePage administered the oath of office to seven judges – five appointees to the District Court and two District Court judges appointed to the Superior Court.
The following individuals are those newly appointed to the District Court:
Judge Andrew Benson, Athens
Judge William Schneider, Durham
Judge Lance Walker, Falmouth
Judge Eric Walker, Belmont
Judge Barbara Raimondi, Auburn
These new judges received from Chief Justice Saufley at the ceremony a judicial robe symbolizing objectivity, neutrality, and the Rule of Law.
Governor LePage also administered the oath of office to Superior Court appointees Justice Daniel I. Billings of Bowdoinham and Justice Robert E. Mullen of Waterville.
“I commend you for your work to uphold a standard of integrity in our judicial system. I am confident in your character and have great faith in your sense of fairness,” Governor LePage told the judges and justices. “Thank you for your dedication to the people of Maine and to our Great State of Maine.”
May 2, 2014
Governor Paul R. LePage and a coalition of government, nonprofit and corporate leaders are announcing the 5th Annual “Fostering Financial Literacy in Maine Schools Conference”. The resource-rich learning opportunity will take place May 8, 2014 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Organized by the Maine Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, the Conference will feature state and national experts offering teachers, counselors, and community educators specialized resources and best practices designed to include financial education in the K-12 and post-secondary experience. The event is funded largely through grants and private contributions.
“Greater financial literacy among young people benefits Maine’s families, communities and economy,” Governor LePage said. “This annual statewide conference gives teachers valuable tools and resources needed to creatively share financial information and instill life-long money management skills.”
“The Office of Securities is proud to mark the fifth year of partnering with the Maine Jump$tart Coalition,” Securities Administrator Judy Shaw said. “Basic financial literacy is essential for young people to achieve their goals. We are excited to help Maine’s educators expand and enhance their financial literacy instruction.”
Workshops will be offered featuring financial literacy resources for Pre-K through college age groups. Other sessions will provide training on how to best utilize technology to advance personal finance education. Attendees will receive free financial education resources and materials from Conference exhibitors.
Organizers are offering financial support to schools on a first-come, first-served basis to cover the $25 Conference registration fee, as well as funds to meet other expenses, including a substitute teacher for the day of the event. To receive updates on the Conference and notification about registration, email email@example.com. For additional information about the event or funding, please call Maine’s Office of Securities at 1-877-624-8551 or e-mail Lindsay.J.Laxon@maine.gov.
The Maine Jump$tart Coalition was named 2014’s coalition of the year by the National Jump$tart Board. This is the first time any state in the northeast has received this honor. Maine Jump$tart Coalition members organizing the May 8 event include Maine’s Office of Securities, the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), the Maine Credit Union League, and the Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions.
The Office of Securities is part of Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (www.maine.gov/pfr). Maine Jump$tart is the state affiliated chapter of the national JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a non-profit coalition of organizations dedicated to improving the financial literacy of pre-kindergarten through college-age youth. www.jumpstart.org.
April 18, 2014
Professional & Financial Regulation – Securities
AUGUSTA – Under the leadership of Governor Paul R. LePage, Maine’s unemployment rate in February fell to its lowest level in six years. The February rate is 6.1 percent, down from 7.0 percent one year ago. The 6.1 percent unemployment rate is the lowest since October 2008.
“Maine’s economy not only is recovering, but it is getting stronger every month,” Governor LePage said. “This is good news for Maine families and our economy as a whole. Furthermore, this is evidence that pro-jobs, pro-growth, low-tax policies work to help businesses create jobs in our state.”
Workforce conditions in Maine continued to improve in February. The number of payroll jobs was up 6,300 from a year ago, driving the employment to population ratio to a five-year high and dropping the unemployment rate to a six-year low. Over the last year, net job growth was dispersed across a number of sectors.
Private-sector jobs were up 7,400, primarily in the retail trade, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, education and healthcare and finance and insurance sectors. Those gains were partially offset by a decline of 1,100 jobs in government. Since 2011, when Governor LePage took office, almost 16,000 private-sector jobs have been created.
Additionally, the share of the population that is employed reached 61.5 percent, the highest since December 2008, and remained higher than the 58.8 percent national average for the 77th consecutive month. The 61.5 percent employment to population ratio is the highest since December 2008, remaining well above the national average.
More Jobs Being Created
• Maine experienced positive annual job growth for 32 consecutive months.
• Maine job growth month-to-month has been positive for 8 of the last 12 months. (also 16 of the last 24 months)
• Maine has created 16,000 new private sector jobs since December 2010.
• Maine job postings compiled by the Maine Job Bank showed nearly 7,000 openings in March 2014.
March 28, 2014
AUGUSTA—Maine’s Job Bank, at www.mainecareercenter.com, has posted about 6,900 open positions, up around 1,000 positions since the beginning of March. The job bank, a service of the Maine Department of Labor, is an online job board that is free for both employers and jobseekers.
“In addition to the openings on Maine’s Job Bank, employers are hiring at job fairs all over the state,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “The Department of Labor is coordinating or participating in 13 job fairs between now and June, and more are in development. Now is a great time to get a job in Maine.”
Three jobs fairs will be held the week of March 24 in Portland, Springvale and Machias. Hundreds of employers will be hiring for both permanent and seasonal positions.
“The Department of Labor’s network of 12 CareerCenters provide free, expert assistance to job seekers who are looking for a job or need advice about their career choices,” said Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette. “They also host free networking events, workshops about financial aid for education and how to start a business. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff can help people learn how to use a computer, create a free email address, apply for jobs online and register with Maine’s Job Bank.”
“Maine’s economy is growing, and we can make sure that you are part of that growth,” she stated. “You do not have to look for work on your own, and if your job search has hit a rut, our staff can get you back on track. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh approach and some encouragement.”
People who need to update their resume or practice their interviewing skills should contact a CareerCenter for free help. To find more information about how to prepare for a job fair, update a resume, and other job-search programs and to locate the closest CareerCenter, visit the CareerCenter website, http://www.mainecareercenter.com .
Businesses interested in participating in these events and taking advantage of other free hiring services the department provides, such as the job bank, interviewing space, and referrals, should contact their local CareerCenter.
The following job fairs have been scheduled to date around the state:
- Portland: March 25, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Maine Sunday Telegram/Monster Spring Career Fair at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland.
- Machias: March 27, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Lee-Pellon Event Center.
- Springvale: March 28, 4th Annual York County Regional Job Fair, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Nasson Community Center, 457 Main Street.
- Lewiston/Auburn: April 4,11th Annual Androscoggin County Job Fair, Friday, 9 a.m. to noon at Central Maine Community College, 1250 Turner Street, Auburn.
- Presque Isle: April 9, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Northeastland Hotel.
- Calais: April 17, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Washington County Community College Gymnasium.
- Lincoln: April 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mattanawcook Academy, 33 Reed Drive, Lincoln.
- South Paris: April 24, 9 a.m. to noon at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in the cafeteria.
- Augusta: April 24, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hiring Maine’s Heroes (general public welcome) at the Augusta Armory, 179 Western Ave.
- Pittsfield: May 14, Pittsfield Area Regional Job Fair, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Warsaw Middle School Gym and Cafeteria, 167 School Street.
- Farmington: May 22, Western Maine Community Job and Resource Fair, 9 a.m. to noon at the Fitness and Recreation Center at UMF, 152 Quebec St.
- Bangor: May 28, 9 a.m. to noon at the Spectacular Event Center, 395 Griffin Rd.
- Augusta: June 17, First Annual State of Maine Government and Maine Municipal Government Job Fair for Veterans at the Augusta Armory.
CareerCenters offer a variety of workshops and services to help people find employment or upgrade skills. Each center provides several public-access computer workstations with Microsoft Office software, resume writing and cover letter software, Internet access and O’Net software for skills assessment. All CareerCenter services are free of charge.
Maine CareerCenters are an equal opportunity provider. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.
March 24, 2014
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage has announced that workers’ compensation rates will decrease by nearly 8 percent—the largest decrease since 1998—saving Maine employers over $15 million in the coming year.
Maine and New Hampshire are the only two states in the Northeast getting reductions, and Maine’s decrease is the larger of the two. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) evaluated Maine’s workers’ compensation system and recommended a premium reduction of 7.7 percent based on multiple factors, including injury experience, injury trends, benefits and expenses.
“Maine employers and employees should take credit for the improvement in the workers’ compensation system,” said Governor LePage. “Maine claim frequency is relatively flat, lost time is stable, and the average medical costs per case are down. There has been a concerted effort in the state to improve safety in the workplace, promptly return injured workers to employment as soon as possible and control medical costs.”
NCCI sent the recommendation in a February 5 letter to Eric Cioppa, the Maine Superintendent of Insurance. In its Annual Report on the Status of the Maine Workers’ Compensation System, the Workers’ Compensation Board noted that the workers’ compensation system in Maine has transitioned from one of the most expensive in the nation to one that is moving to a level of average costs for both premiums and benefits.
The Maine Bureau of Insurance expects employers to save $15.2 million over the coming year.
“I am pleased with the NCCI voluntary market recommendation,” said Paul Sighinolfi, executive director and chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Board. “Their analysis of the Maine workers’ compensation market is consistent with—or perhaps even better than—my impression. All stakeholders within our system should be pleased with this recommendation because it is a combined effort of both the management and labor communities to reduce injuries and control costs that led to the recommended reduction in premium.”
February 7, 2014
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage has proclaimed Wednesday as Digital Learning Day throughout Maine and his Administration will be joined by the state’s students and schools in recognizing the important opportunities digital learning provides.
Organized by the Alliance for Excellence Education, the third annual national Digital Learning Day spotlights innovative teaching and effective applications of education technology that improve learning and support teachers.
In his proclamation, Governor LePage noted “when done correctly, the infusion of digital learning and the effective use of technology in schools can help personalize and improve the learning of every child.” Digital learning and technology can also help educators be more effective and efficient, he wrote.
Under the leadership of Governor LePage, Maine has continued to be an international trailblazer in making digital learning accessible to its students.
The State recently expanded its decade-old Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) program to offer schools choice in selecting the technology that was right for them, and this fall, around 70,000 HP laptops and Apple iPads and MacBooks were distributed by the Maine Department of Education to students and educators.
The Department has also made providing multiple pathways for learning achievement a core focus of its Education Evolving strategic plan, an acknowledgement of the value that self-directed, self-paced, anytime, anywhere learning technology offers even the most remote Maine students.
“Every day is Digital Learning Day in Maine schools,” said Acting Educator Commissioner Jim Rier. “Just as industry has improved and innovated by incorporating technology into their practices, so have our schools. The Department of Education is committed to continuing to support the digital learning being showcased across Maine on Feb. 5 because we know the investment and emphasis our State continues to make in technology will position our students perhaps better than any other in the nation for the colleges, careers and challenges of the 21st century.”
Acting Commissioner Rier and Maine DOE Learning Technology Policy Director Jeff Mao will participate in a State House celebration of Digital Learning Day at 10 a.m. on Wednesday in the Welcome Center.
Maine schools will commemorate the awareness day in different ways that reflect the diversity of the opportunities digital learning provides to Maine students.
At the Frank H. Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth, all teachers are being challenged to try a new tech tool in their classroom from a list of suggested tools provided by Technology Coordinator Mike Arsenault. Meanwhile at Telstar Middle School in Bethel, students will develop and perform a screen cast of a technology tip to distribute through their YouTube Channel.
Shapleigh School students will Skype with Newbury Award-winning author Avi, Penquis Valley High School ninth graders in Milo will consider how technology affects their daily life and Edward Little High School students will communicate via technology with fellow students in Kazakhstan and South Africa.
For more information about Digital Learning Day and other related events in Maine, visit http://www.digitallearningday.org
For more information about digital learning in Maine schools, visit http://www.maine.gov/education/technology/
February 4, 2014
Maine Department of Education
AUGUSTA – Maine’s economy is “booming,” according to the Philadelphia branch of the Federal Reserve. Business Insider recently highlighted the news from the Reserve’s monthly coincident index for each of the 50 states. Governor Paul R. LePage today reminded Mainers how much the State has improved its business climate since 2010 when the unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in Maine and nearly 10 percent nationally.
“When we took office, Maine’s economy was a mess, workers were losing their jobs in droves, and our state budget was a nightmare after years of liberals who advocated for tax increases, out-of-control government spending and the use of one-time money from the federal government,” Governor LePage said. “We’ve come a long way in the nearly three years since then. Our economy is growing, and over 8,000 more people are working since 2011.”
The Governor notes that while this report only covers a three-month period, it is still welcome news for the State of Maine. “This is all good news, and we’re headed in the right direction, but we’re not done. Our Administration is working to reform welfare to provide Mainers with job training to enable them to become self-sufficient, and we are continuing to improve Maine’s business climate so more jobs are available.”
Recent news has shown many positive signs for Maine’s economy, including:
•Maine moved to one of the ten best in the nation in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s leading index forecast for economic growth over the next three months. The indexes are released a few days after the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases the employment data for the states.
•From January 2013 to August 2013, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) certified 12 businesses anticipating 267 new jobs, generating $14.2 million in payroll and nearly $70 million in new investment.
•Over the same period in 2012, DECD certified 14 businesses anticipating 128 news jobs, generating $6.3 million in payroll and just over $157 million in new investment.
•In the first eight months of 2013, DECD’s Maine Made Program certified 61 new small businesses.
•The first three years of private-sector job growth under Governor LePage were the best three years for Maine in over a decade.
•Maine’s four-week average of initial weekly unemployment insurance claims is at its lowest level since 2008.
•Maine’s unemployment rate is 6.7 percent, below the national average of 7.3 percent.
For the complete report: http://www.philadelphiafed.org/research-and-data/regional-economy/indexes/coincident/
December 2, 2013