Maine public policy has not supported the retention or attraction of quality, “foundational jobs.” The state has lost thousands of jobs in manufacturing, paper making, forestry, construction, and farming and has not attracted many innovative 21st Century employers.
An important reason is that public officials look at issues one at a time and only for the very near future (or next election). Should we expand Medicaid? Should we raise the minimum wage? Should we use more state revenue to fund education? Should we increase benefits for injured workers? The list is a very long one but the point is that each of these issues is looked at as a stand-alone problem to be solved.
The truth is each of these issues has long-term consequences for the economy and they are connected. Simplistic solutions for each issue ignore these consequences and the complexities inherent in statewide work that is connected to the regional, national, and global economies.
To resolve these problems in a way that accounts for that complexity, and that serves the long-term interests of the people of Maine, we need a comprehensive strategy.
Instead of a long-term strategy, last legislative session there were more than 1600 bills introduced. Almost 800 of them were special interests asking for something each of them wanted.
The requests spanned the length and breadth of the state, the political spectrum, and the economy. Some of them may have been good for Maine in the long run and others not, but without a strategy and a plan, there was no basis for making that decision. It is possible and probably likely that even very good decisions on a individual basis could add up to conflicting, chaotic, ineffective, or counter-productive overall public policy.
Getting Maine on the right track first requires a comprehensive strategic plan to support the retention and attraction of foundational jobs—not based on what various people believe, political perspective, vested interests, self-interest, or ideology – but on what works.
We need a plan.