Alan Caron, who’s running as an independent in the race for governor, is a Maine native and founder of GrowSmart Maine and Envision Maine.
Caron says as a teenager in Waterville he dropped out of high school, made a mistake he regrets and spent time in jail. Today, he holds a master’s degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Caron has written two books: “Reinventing Maine Government” and “Maine’s Next Economy.”
He spoke with Maine Public’s Mal Leary.
Leary: There are three other candidates in this race for governor and many of them are promoting similar ideas to some that you’re proposing. What specific proposal or proposals makes you different from your opponents?
Caron: Well, I think on the economy, certainly, that’s where I spend most of my time. I’m interested in building a new economy in Maine, and that means moving away from the notion that we can attract big businesses to the state that will save us, and that we ought to give away hundreds of millions of dollars to people who make promises, Or in the fervent hope that those tax giveaways will create jobs. I want to give tax breaks to people who actually create jobs. And I want to pay particular attention to small businesses here in Maine. I want to grow jobs, not attract them. So, I think on the economy in general, this is an area I’ve spent a lot of time on and have specific ideas on.
What’s the biggest challenge facing Maine and what would you do as governor to respond to the challenge?
I think the biggest challenge is a sense that we’re stuck, and even a kind of hopelessness in large parts of Maine. We have had a tendency for a long time to look in the rearview mirror and wait for the future to appear. It hasn’t happened. We have a bad habit, I think, of going sideways also, from one party to the other. And I think the state has lacked leadership with vision for what it means to transition to the 21st century economically, in terms of how government works and in many other ways. So, these are things I’ve been working on for most of my life. I’m not boning up now on the economy. And, so, I hope to help us to have a larger conversation about where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.
You talk about the economy as being a major focus, but what can a governor do to improve the economy? I mean it’s really the private sector that drives the economy.
Yes exactly. And what a governor can do is make sure that the government is of more assistance to the private sector in a more targeted and productive way. We come back to the question of tax breaks, loan guarantees — we expend as a state something close to half a billion dollars a year in tax breaks and loan guarantees, all for the purpose of creating jobs. But in most cases, we don’t ask for a job in return. It’s as though we were running a small business producing a product: I will give you the product and hope that, someday, things might work out that you might pay me. That has got to end. So, here’s the deal going forward: Create a job you get a tax break. Create 10 jobs you get 10 tax breaks. A hundred, you get 100. It happens after you do it, though. So, we can stop with press conferences, we can stop with lobbyists in the halls of Augusta. Reward the people who are actually doing what you want. It’s a radically simple idea and we don’t do enough.
This interview has been edited for clarity. Visit our Your Vote 2018 page for more elections resources and information.