Ask anyone — an economist, a businesswoman or the proverbial man on the street — and they’ll tell you: There is a whole variety of factors that go into determining how well off a given state may be.

Education levels, labor productivity, transportation infrastructure, the availability of natural resources, and, yes, proximity to centers of economic activity all play a role in deciding whether a state is affluent, at least in the aggregate.

It is a shame, then, that Amity Shlaes (“A tax lesson from Maine and New Hampshire,” Aug. 27) chooses to focus on one measure, taxes, that really has little to do with economic development.

Indeed, by her methods, one would expect per-capita incomes in Alabama and Tennessee — which have comparatively low levels of taxation — to be substantially higher than incomes in Hawaii and New Jersey, which have relatively higher levels of taxation.

Yet precisely the opposite is true, since tax levels, by themselves, neither promote nor preclude economic prosperity.

Christopher St. John

Executive Director, Maine Center for Economic Policy

Gardiner

Jeff McLynch

Executive Director, New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute

Concord, N.H. 

This short note is in response to Walt Tetschner’s rebuttal (“New Hampshire has little to offer us,” Aug. 11) to Tony Payne’s column comparing Maine’s economy unfavorably to New Hampshire’s (Aug. 1).

Mr. Tetschner is correct in that New Hampshire does have extremely high real estate taxes, but incorrect in his view that New Hampshire’s state government does not contribute to its towns.

When I moved to New Hampshire in 2000 and built my home, you can imagine the surprise I got when I received my first tax bill for $32,000 — and it was not waterfront property, either. I took it to the town thinking there was an error.

I was told that New Hampshire was divided into “donor” towns and “recipient” towns. I was lucky enough to be living in a donor town.

This socialist attitude of “spread the wealth” did not agree with me. So I moved back to Maine. I agree with Mr. Tetschner in that Maine cannot be compared to New Hampshire — yet. Be very careful of who you vote for in November or we could become more like New Hampshire than we would wish.

Elizabeth Duckworth

Falmouth 

I read the Aug. 1 column, “Maine should take lessons from its neighbor,” by Tony Payne with great interest. A native and lifelong resident, I tried for many years to effect change through my right to vote, letters to my representatives and discussions with family and friends. I have watched industry leave, incomes stagnate, health insurance premiums and taxes soar, and every bond issue pass, adding to the already high debt.

It is beyond stupefying that a state with only 1.3 million people can’t figure out how to balance the budget. Payne states “New Hampshire loves business and hates government, while Maine hates business and loves government.”

I recently visited Sanford and was shocked to see that the old Sprague Electric building was being torn down. Once part of a thriving industrial park, it will be probably become a strip mall or parking lot.

A large share of the blame lies with elected officials, but Maine people themselves must accept some culpability. People complain that taxes are too high, but pass every bond issue.

They are unhappy with the direction of their state and country, but re-elect their entrenched officials over and over, or don’t vote at all. They see industry leave the state in droves, but don’t contact their representatives to make themselves heard.

I decided to vote with my feet and moved to New Hampshire. I gave myself a 7 percent raise by eliminating income taxes, paying no sales tax, and having property taxes lower than in Maine on four times the amount of land.

I don’t totally understand how New Hampshire does it, but I know that it works.

As Payne’s column states, Maine does a lot of studies and takes a long time to make a decision. Maine should take a long, hard look at its more prosperous neighbor to see how it’s done, and just do it the same way.

Peter Gagne

Jackson, N.H.

Walt Tetschner’s recent letter in the opinion section reflects what in my opinion is wrong with Maine’s government and its supporters.

Most people I know love living in Maine and rightfully so, but for some reason many love to hate New Hampshire.

That state’s extremely higher real estate tax (his quote) is 6.01 percent of income versus Maine’s 5.42 percent.

This is hardly extremely higher. Yes, New Hampshire’s average income is higher, but is that a negative?

New Hampshire’s percent of high school diplomas is 88.1 versus Maine’s 89.3 percent. Not too much difference there, either.

New Hampshire falls way behind in social programs, but as one of the poorest states in the nation, can we reasonably afford what we do?

The last figures I have show Maine in 2007 with a $193 million budget shortfall, while New Hampshire had a $63 million surplus in spite of no income or sales taxes.

My figures may be a few years old, but I think the percentages probably hold true. Maine has had a champagne taste with a beer pocketbook for may years.

Perhaps we should take another look at the 2006 Brookings Institution report, some of which our governor has attempted to initiate, but how much has our Legislature done?

Instead of knocking New Hampshire, maybe we could learn something from it.

Robert Ryan

Portland 

Libby Mitchell’s absence worth Page 1, others’ presence Section B? 

That Libby Mitchell opted not to attend the debate with Paul LePage and Eliot Cutler was front-page news in your paper, while coverage of the actual debate was buried in Section B.

It seems odd that the “no show” is given more prominence than the ones who did show.

Ed Cataldo

Boothbay