LePage says Fairchild sale will lead to the job cuts he predicted in April

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage is saying “told ya so” (that’s a paraphrase) regarding major manufacturing job losses in southern Maine.

During his weekly radio appearance Tuesday morning on WVOM, LePage said he’s known about the sale of Fairchild Semiconductor of South Portland to an Arizona-based company for months and that it was one of the businesses he was talking about in early April when he said he expected 900 job losses this summer in southern Maine.

The sale of Fairchild Semiconductor was announced Monday. It was unclear how the sale will affect the Maine workforce.

“I’ve known about the semiconductor since last April where I sort of hinted there was going to be some major employers leaving,” said LePage. “The likelihood of them leaving, it’s unfortunately, is a high probability.”

Fairchild Semiconductor employs more than 600 people in South Portland. After his prediction that Maine would lose 900 jobs this summer, LePage revised his estimate later in April and said the job losses in this year could reach as many as 1,500.

As he has for years, LePage blamed Maine’s high energy costs and top corporate income tax rate of more than 8.9 percent — and legislative Democrats — for putting the Fairchild jobs at risk and for hurting Bath Iron Works in its losing bid to secure a multi-billion-dollar Coast Guard cutter contract.

“If we’re going to make Maine competitive, let’s stop talking about [lowering energy costs and taxes] and do something about it,” said LePage. “The Democrats are not interested in being competitive in business. They’re interested in being the No. 1 welfare state in America.”

There are plenty of folks, namely Democrats, who take issue with that statement.

“When Paul LePage decides he is interested in accepting responsibility and working on solutions for Maine people and Maine’s challenges, he knows where to find us,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon in response to questions from the BDN. “In the meantime, we will remain busy working on the policy, the planning and the bipartisan relationship building that it will take to dig us out of his six years of inaction. Because creating jobs, bringing and keeping young people and families into our state and engineering the lost-cost and low-emission energy grid of our future is what’s keeping us busy right now.”

Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond of Portland added to Gideon’s criticism of the governor.

“The contract loss at BIW and uncertainty at Fairchild Semiconductor have put a cloud over thousands of Mainers and their livelihoods,” he said in a written statement. “Those Mainers need their political leaders to work together to ensure they have good jobs that are here to stay. The governor’s finger-pointing does nothing to help them.”

LePage went on to make some more questionable statements about defense spending at the federal level. LePage said defense spending has been axed under Democratic presidents and blamed them for the closure of Maine’s military bases.

“It goes back to when [President Jimmy] Carter was there,” said LePage. “The Republicans had to come back in and fix it. [George] H.W. [Bush] maintained it, Clinton cut it. And then George [W. Bush] built it back up and Obama cut it. It’s just a pattern. We go through this every time we’ve gone from a Republican to a Democratic administration.”

Two important points should be noted:

  1. Congress sets the budget, not the president. While the administration presents a spending proposal, Congress has the authority to determine spending.
  2. When Carter took office, the Vietnam war was winding down, meaning that the U.S. was coming out of an active wartime budget.

Let’s look more closely at the numbers. The United States dwarfs all other countries in defense spending and since 2001, the defense budget has jumped from $287 billion to $530 billion, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Defense spending did increase under [President Ronald] Reagan (funded in part by tax increases) and fall under Clinton but was ramped up significantly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Military spending has dipped in recent years due in part to budget sequestration measures that resulted from a failure by Congress to agree on a federal budget.

The decision to close Brunswick Naval Air Station was made in 2005, under Republican President George W. Bush. Loring Air Force Base in northern Maine was closed in 1991, under Republican President George H.W. Bush. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Democrats looking forward: Democratic legislative leaders will gather tonight in Topsham to discuss their vision of policies they wish to pursue that they say will help Maine’s young families and businesses. The event, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, will include Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond of Portland; House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick; Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport; Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick; and Rep. Denise Tepler of Topsham.
  • Joe Brennan archives: Former Democratic Gov. Joseph E. Brennan will be the honoree Wednesday for the dedication of the aptly named Gov. Joseph E. Brennan Archives at the Maine Irish Heritage Center in Portland. The center will showcase Brennan’s more than fiv decades of public service through the use of documents, filmed interviews and other artifacts. The event at 34 Gray St. in Portland begins at 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Among the speakers will be Brennan and former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.
  • Housing assistance hearing: Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine will host a hearing in Washington on Wednesday that examines the effectiveness of federally funded housing assistance programs. The hearing will examine ways to improve the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s programs, which consume 84 percent of the budget but serve only an estimated 25 percent of families that qualify.

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Salute (or hug) your IT professional

Today is National IT Professionals day and as we all know, those are the people who keep the world running. I can tell you that’s especially true at newspaper and media organizations, so I thought observation of this holiday was appropriate if I want the Daily Brief to post and circulate as it should.

If your IT professional isn’t available or effective, I pray for you. Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.