The number of skilled workers and the amount of business investment occurring in Maine are both declining. In addition, there’s a perception that the economy’s unfair. This perspective has led to public policies aimed directly at equalizing economic conditions rather than addressing the fundamentals to make our economy more prosperous for all.
Certainly not everyone makes the same amount of money in Maine, but talent and education command a premium. People are willing to pay more for people who can do more, who identify, solve and prevent problems, who are willing to have their incomes and assets at risk, who deal with enormously complex problems that must be solved to produce and deliver heat, food, energy, healthcare and other essentials that people need. Those individuals are in short supply, and they do not typically end up choosing Maine as the place to start or expand their businesses. Those individuals do, and should, make more than people who have guaranteed hourly jobs and are paid a guaranteed hourly wage or salary. People with greater responsibility and more difficult jobs command a premium. It takes years of education, training, and experience to be a surgeon, engineer, or quality executive. We want our best and brightest people to make the effort to be exceptional high performers and compensation is one of the ways we incentivize them to make those sacrifices. On top of that, the highest wage earners in the state pay 40% of the state’s income taxes, and the bottom 40% pay only 1%. Similar trends hold for property and sales taxes, and the people talking about fairness rarely mention those statistics.
Maine needs to attract people who are knowledgeable, trained, intelligent and willing to get paid for success, but not for failure. Innovators and entrepreneurs are necessary to spark economic activity, which generates jobs and wealth for workers across a wide range of skills, education and experience. Innovators and entrepreneurs help to create foundational jobs, which are critical for Maine’s long-term economic prosperity. We need more of these people, but first we need a plan to make Maine the place they want to be.
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