Maine has been losing good-paying, foundational jobs for years, the population is aging, our kids are leaving, and statewide deaths exceed births. Lots of people are aware of all these challenges and are trying to change our direction. Many are working on strategic plans for specific industries or individual regions of Maine. Yet, none of them are comprehensive or long-term and things are not improving.
Here are some of the issues with the discussions or problem-solving efforts to date.
- Issues are often taken in isolation—minimum wage, Medicaid expansion, single-payer, elder care, education funding, taxes, and so on.
Problems are addressed simplistically when, in fact, the economy is complex, dynamic, and changing over time. Rarely do policy makers look at connections among issues and institutions or consequences over time and distance. Legislative committees are isolated by subject matter with no coordination with what happens in other committees.
- Issues are considered only for the near term, doing only what it takes to solve the perceived problem today. There’s little thought to the impact over time or down the road.
- Strategies and solutions are often driven by our divided politics and ideology rather than a long-range vision and strategic plan. A conservative strategic plan probably doesn’t look much like a liberal one and vice versa. As a consequence, our policy choices end up being political deals that exclude important stakeholders and ideas – this only creates pressure that the strategy will change when elections change the balance of power in Maine government.
At the end of the day, Maine has to overcome all of these shortcomings and come up with a plan that will work. We’re too small and too far behind to be fighting amongst ourselves. We need to pull together and come up with a comprehensive strategy that will retain and attract 21st Century foundational jobs, bright innovative companies to Maine, create opportunities for our children, expand the tax base, and help us be productive and prosperous.
A successful plan needs to be comprehensive, look at the big picture, and propose solutions that work long-term and statewide.