An Associated Press story on Page 1 May 23, titled “New Hampshire envy wins a seat in Augusta,” demonstrates that Maine officials need to look a little deeper when they compare household incomes in the two states.

The story said: “New Hampshire residents earn about $7,000 more on average than their neighbors in Maine, which ranks as the poorest state in New England when it comes to personal income.”

Looking at a few statistics, a big reason for the large difference between Maine and New Hampshire incomes becomes apparent: It is New Hampshire’s proximity to Massachusetts.

Since the 1950s, thousands of Massachusetts residents have settled in southern New Hampshire, choosing to enjoy the Granite State’s cheaper housing and lower taxes. Enabled by the construction of I-93 and I-95, they commute long distances to well-paid jobs in Massachusetts.

The 2008 New Hampshire census shows that two eastern counties closest to Massachusetts — the counties where most of these commuters live — have the highest household incomes: Hillsborough County, $68,613, and Rockingham County, $75,425. These two counties undoubtedly inflate the state figure, which is $63,235.

Moving northward on the map, we see that household incomes in New Hampshire gradually decline and begin to resemble the median income in Maine ($46,419).

Note also that Maine’s highest income-earners ($54,626 per household) live in York County and some of them commute to jobs in the Boston area. So, Massachusetts prosperity has spread to neighboring states, including ours.

Yes, we need to improve the Maine economy. But let’s not give undue praise to New Hampshire.

Russ Burbank

Lewiston

Limit campaign donations and cut pay of incumbents

As candidates start announcing their plans for political office, I am writing to make campaign reform suggestions.

Elections, on all levels, should last six months from beginning to end. This would force candidates to be better prepared and focus them on the real issues. The current 2-year-plus election campaign has gotten out of hand and is too costly to allow good, potential future candidates to enter a race.

Donations for campaign funding should be capped to a maximum of $1,000 for individual donors, and a maximum of $5,000 for corporate donors. No other outside funds can be used by candidates unless it’s their own personal funds.

A full accounting of all candidates’ monies received and disbursed must be made and published within 60 days of the election date. In this economy, it is difficult for those who don’t have a job to hear how many millions of dollars a candidate has raised.

In the end, the candidates are paying millions of dollars to “buy” themselves a job. Also, any candidate who has a salary paid by the taxpayers of this country should take a 30 percent reduction in salary during the campaign.

As a taxpayer, I am annoyed that I must continue to pay full salary to someone who’s already in office and not devoting their full attention to the job they were elected to do because they are out campaigning.

I think these reforms would provide the substance to elections that voters deserve. Hopefully, it would also force candidates to be more “dollar sensitive,” as well as prevent special interest groups from having undue influence in future elections.

Linda L. Allen

Windham

Selling assets to fix deficits a short-sighted strategy

Regarding Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach’s article in the May 16 Portland Press Herald (“Does answer to U.S. debt lie in Fort Knox?”): I am totally confused by The Heritage Foundation’s proposal that the United States sell some of its assets (or capital) to balance its budget.

I thought The Heritage Foundation was a conservative institution, but it apparently is not when it comes to finances. I consider myself to be a fiscal conservative and one of my principles is not to dip into capital to finance current expenses.

To balance an unbalanced operating budget, one has to either decrease expenses, increase income or both. Using capital to balance an operating budget only makes the entity or person poorer in the long run.

Chicago sold one of its assets, its parking meters, only to find that it will cost Chicago much more over the long term than it received for the parking meters. How will I be better off paying a private company to run the highway system?

The private company has to make a profit for its stockholders, something the government does not have to do; and unless I own a large share of the stock, I will have no say in how the highways are managed, i.e., I don’t get to vote for or against the president of the company as I do the president of the United States.

Paying for highways via taxes seems preferable to paying a profit-making firm.

Anne S. Richmond

Cape Elizabeth

Higher taxes on the rich needed to balance budget 

I feel compelled to comment on the letter May 13 from Chris Witham, “Colossal debt? We’ve dealt with it before.” This young person should be listened to! We should listen to more young people as they are the ones that are going to take the brunt of our mistakes. He is using his education well by speaking out to now educate us to the facts. Did we not learn them or not pay attention to the events taking place round us?

Representatives and senators, please pay attention to the fact that no one ever got out of debt by going further into debt. We all know in our personal lives that the way to stay our of debt is to not overspend, work hard to save and earn enough to make ends meet.

For the country to endeavor to make ends meet, we need to obtain more revenue. That means raise taxes on the corporations, CEOs and the top money in this country! Yes, we need to cut spending here and there, but not at the expense of education, the poor and needy and health care for those who desperately need it.

This and past generations have been enjoying all the wonderful benefits this country has provided. Now let’s make it possible for the next generations to live their lives with dignity, safety and happiness.

Margaret Logan

Harpswell