20 Questions for Maine’s Government

If there’s anything harder than moving away from the beauty of Maine and friends and family there, it’s moving away twice.

In early 2001 I moved to my home state of Michigan to take a higher paying job with a stable company, leaving behind a great job with a once-great company, Bangor Hydro. Six months after their acquisition by Emera I seriously doubted their claim that “employment will be largely unaffected.” (With the entire IS department of the then-profitable Hydro now almost completely gutted in favor of — you guessed it — outsourced labor, my instincts were vindicated but only at a great price to my incredibly talented colleagues and friends.)

But Michigan didn’t work for us as we hoped, and the door was soon opened for us to return to Maine. Granted, the pay cut was huge, but we knew in our hearts we wanted to be there. And for two more years we tried to make a reasonable living in the Bangor area.

But in April 2004, we moved to Tennessee.

Why? Primarily because of the cost of living. I was offered a better paying job in a state that has no income tax, where my property taxes on our 2,000 square foot home in a desirable neighborhood are $1,200 a year — well under half for the same sized house we had in Glenburn, and where you can register your 4-year-old minivan without first getting a home equity loan to finance the excise taxes and fees (it cost less than $100 to register both of our vehicles in Tennessee — a minivan and SUV).

Sadly, we will most likely never live in Maine again. As I talk with family and friends there I’m amazed at how the elected leaders there simply refuse to do what it takes to turn the state around. There’s too much pandering to socialized causes. In pursuit of utopian ideals they are strangling the golden goose of economics needed to drive such innovation. The result will ultimately be a place where no one can make a decent living.

Maine ranks as the highest-taxed state in the nation — or second highest, depending on whom you talk to. Governor Baldacci skirted the issue of raising taxes by raising fees instead, many of which have negatively impacted tourism and timber. There have been no meaningful spending cuts from Augusta since he took office. And rather than recruiting businesses to the state, the cost of doing business in Maine has only gone up and threaten Maine’s pulp and paper companies. The people of this beautiful state, brimming with potential, only grow frustrated, disenchanted, or even bankrupt.

So I can only wonder: What will it take for Governor Baldacci and the Maine legislature to take Maine’s future serious enough to implement the drastic changes needed to salvage its economic engine? If I could ask but a few questions, perhaps that would prompt some reflection and possible action…

20 Questions

  1. If I were a major business considering expanding into northern New England, why would I choose Maine over New Hampshire? (Remember: We’re in business first to be profitable.)
  2. What is being done to guarantee that government spending is equal to or less than revenues?
  3. Before fees are raised, how much research goes into calculating the effects of people choosing not to pay those fees by virtue of their choice not to come to Maine?
  4. If Maine were to convert its highways into toll roads, how many new businesses and jobs would that create in the state?
  5. How’s that East-West highway coming along?
  6. How much longer until Maine is in the top 25 of least-taxed states (or even the top 40)?
  7. What incentives are you giving state agencies to volunatarily reduce costs to come in under budget?
  8. What will you rely on to replace their tax revenue should any one — or any number or Maine’s paper companies leave the state?
  9. Why not raise the minium wage to $14.00 per hour? (After all, who can live on $7 an hour?)
  10. How many legislators use Dirigo Care?
  11. What would happen to Maine if, for a period of 5 years, spending was rolled back to no more than 80% of its current level, taxes reduced across the board, and the writing of new regulations curtailed: Would everyone die, or would just those of you in Augusta suffocate?
  12. Has the number of Maine college graduates leaving the state decreased?
  13. Has the number of Maine high school graduates attending college out of state and then returning to Maine to work increased?
  14. Is it remotely possible that cutting taxes and fees, coupled with aggressive promotion, that Maine could create new businesses, new tax payers, and new revenue?
  15. What would happen to Maine’s schools if there was no state department for education? Would it be anything like pre-1976 America when no one ever learned anything and we were waiting for our first high school graduate to happen?
  16. Can Maine taxpayers really afford to sustain the current level of compensation foster parents receive? And given the threat of increased job losses — and more and more couples considering foster parenting, what is the maximum number of foster children Maine can subsidize?
  17. What would happen to your home if you spent 20% more than you and your family collectively earned?
  18. Is Maine better off than it was 10 to 15 years ago?
  19. Do you honestly, in your heart of hearts, believe that the way Maine is being governed today will make it a properous, ecomonic powerhouse in the next 10 to 20 years?
  20. Other than for family and friends, why should I ever move back to Maine?

I’m happy in Tennessee, but I’d rather have not had to move from Maine. The government here certainly has a lot of problems, but there’s a lot less government and taxation in the way of our life here.
And if there’s anything harder right now than moving away from Maine twice, it’s moving back to Maine once more.


Joel Cranford is a contributor to the Adams Report.

POSTSCRIPT: The democrat majority is about to pass a budget that exceeds Gov. Baldacci’s request by $100 million. It raises taxes, in what may be a veiled attempt to reclaim the #1 spot back from New York State. It raises the principal and interest your kids and grandkids will be paying up to $44 million. And former house speaker Pat Calwell of Bath has the abject gall to say that this budget demonstrates a real decrease in spending, when in fact the democrats are using refinancing tactics to disguise increase debt payouts by simply lengthening the term of the debt, making the monthly payment smaller. And for a democrat to criticize republicans for rejecting tax cutst is insane. The republicans object to the entire budget, sugar coating and all, because it violates the principal that MAINE IS SPENDING MORE MONEY THAT IT TAKES IN. And that will soon break the state!

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