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October 26, 2012 | last updated October 26, 2012 10:53 am

Former foes bring 'Fix the Debt' call to ME

A leading Maine Democrat and Republican are heading up the state arm of a national nonpartisan campaign urging congressional leaders to reduce the federal debt.

Maine's former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci and Rick Bennett, a former Republican state senator, announced Thursday that they will co-chair the Maine branch of the national Campaign to Fix the Debt that targets the country's $16 trillion debt tab.

"These crippling levels of debt threaten the strength of our economy, our standard of living and the prosperity of future generations," Bennett said at a press conference Thursday. "In short, it's not an issue but is the issue in America today."

Both Bennett and Baldacci said the campaign will urge Maine's congressional leaders to deal across party lines to craft a debt solution.

"It's our job to give them the courage to deal with the debt head on," Bennett said.

The announcement came just before the Nov. 6 elections deliberately, Bennett said, as the group's message is "to whoever wins this election."

Chris Hall of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce and Chris Claudio, CEO of the Portland-based IT company Winxnet, joined the two political figures Thursday.

Claudio said that the federal debt plays a role in creating an environment of uncertainty for business that keeps more investment capital in savings rather than new investments.

"To err on the side of caution is to have money in savings for a rainy day," Claudio told Mainebiz, "and it's the same strategy from a corporate perspective."

Claudio said businesses like his will likely continue operating conservatively until clearer approaches to federal finances are made.

"There's nothing more troubling to me and my company right now than our current national debt and the growth rate that it's on," Claudio said.

Claudio said the national debt is not the top consideration in thinking of expanding his business to new locations, but he is concerned that it could be in years to come if a plan is not developed.

"We are asking elected officials to tackle this now, stop stalling, stop ignoring and stop pretending," Claudio said. "Drive into the storm and please fix this debt."

As of Thursday, Bennett and Baldacci are the only political leaders involved in the new Maine campaign, but they said the announcement is an invitation to other Maine leaders to join the campaign for events over the next year, which Bennett said will include town hall meetings across the state and other advocacy activities.

In New York on Thursday, The Associated Press reported that more than 80 corporate leaders also signed on to the national "Fix the Debt" campaign in a call for federal leaders to raise taxes and cut spending.

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