January 6, 2013

Our View: Legislature should focus on growing the economy

A good place to start would be to build on the things that make people want to move here.

To the people who moved to Maine in 2012: Welcome, we're glad you are here.

click image to enlarge

Legislators stand and applaud visitors in the House Chamber during a session, Friday, April 13, 2012, at the State House in Augusta.

2012 File Photo//The Associated Press

We know you didn't come here for our robust economy. We were the only state in New England with negative growth last year.

And we know that you didn't come here for our low taxes, low energy costs and low health insurance premiums because we don't have them.

We can assume that you might have come here for our natural beauty, our quirky and livable downtowns and our live-and-let-live lifestyle where you can work hard without feeling you are in a rat race.

And according to the U.S. Census, you are bringing us things that we need. You may have heard we are the oldest state in the union, but more than half of the people who have moved here in the last five years are between 18 and 34 years old.

You may have heard that we have low attainment of higher education in our work force, but more than half of you come with college educations or beyond, meaning you are likely to earn incomes that help build your communities.

For the rest of us, especially the 186 members of the Legislature and Gov. LePage, we should think about what brings people to Maine, and what would bring more people here and keep our educated young people from leaving when they are looking for a place to settle and start a family.

Lower taxes and lower energy and health costs might be part of the answer, but so are good schools and land-use policy that protects the environment and supports smart growth.

We should also be focused on growing small business in the manufacturing and technology sectors, which produces the kind of jobs that bring high-wage workers to the state and provide a good living for the people who are already here.

Maine has a lot to build on, and as the new Legislature gets down to business, we hope that all members will find a way to work with each other. Maybe they could start by talking to the new Mainers in their districts and find out what it would take to fuel the kind of growth that would bring more people here to work, and help more natives stay here to make a living.


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