For years Maine’s public policies have responded to job loss, an aging population, and the departure of our young people with programs to help the unemployed and elderly and increase funding to education.
Increasingly, special interests are trying to help those being left behind by Maine’s stagnating economy by imposing higher taxes. Unfortunately, these efforts are proving counter-productive to what Maine truly needs: a strategy to create the skilled workforce and competitive environment needed to attract private investment and good-paying jobs.
We have a culture of local government, local control of education, and a large number of autonomous towns and school districts. We pay for all of these bodies of government with income, property, and excise taxes that are among the highest in the country. Quality services generally come with higher taxes, and that’s not a problem but a choice within a reasonable range, but when the taxes are unusually high, there are consequences.
Investment is critical to job creation and economic development and investors have choices.
Investors will generally invest where they have the best chance of financial and operational success and that means an environment with low costs—particularly energy, health care, and taxes—and appropriate, well-trained workers.
Investment has been very low in Maine in large part because investors have much more attractive opportunities in other states. Maine is in competition with other states for jobs, people, investment, prosperity, and the future, and we’re losing.
We need a statewide strategic plan that starts with evaluating our competition and doing what it takes to make Maine more attractive to investors, innovators, and smart young people. This is a competition we have to win. Moreover, while there are many deserving groups and projects in state, the way to fund them is by creating jobs and attracting innovative companies to expand the tax base. We need only look to Massachusetts for ideas on how to grow an economy.
How do we win the competition with other states? What is our comprehensive strategy? How do we attract investment and grow the economy? How do we pay for government and education by expanding the tax base?
We need a plan.