Phil: You are gonna love this. Maine climbed six places to number 30 on the list of the “2015 Best & Worst States for Business” according to the Chief Executive Network. Care to opine on how good the governor is doing to rebuild our economy?

Ethan: Thirty! Whoa, slow down. You do realize that we were ranked 32nd in 2012. So, even though we picked up six slots this year, it is only after we had slid back four.

Phil: Four steps back, six steps up. As long as we’re making progress.

Ethan: Yeah, those attacks on welfare recipients, General Assistance payments and immigrants really seem to be helping us make progress with bringing in new business.

Phil: More likely his attacks on high taxes, over-regulation and energy costs are what is moving us up the list.

Ethan: That’s funny because the survey actually mentions that even with taxes going up recently, the state still improved.


Phil: Correct. Imagine how much better we would have fared had Sen. Justin Alfond, House Speaker Mark Eves and their willing accomplices not jacked up the sales tax by 10 percent last session (Alfond might still be in power). In fact, the study specifically says, “Recent sales tax increases have had a detrimental impact on companies’ ability to thrive in Maine.”

Ethan: What I find interesting is how much emphasis they put on factors other than taxes. “Taxes and regulations” appear to only be about a sixth of the score. But “quality of life” and “strength of workforce” make up the remaining two-thirds. Those sound like Democratic issues to me.

Phil: Please. Republicans are all about quality of life. Low crime. Personal freedom. The right to hunt and fish and recreate in our four seasons. These are the qualities that make life in Maine so unique and enticing to folks from away.

Ethan: Strength of workforce comes from a strong educational system. And quality of life begins with a clean environment, good wages and being able to live healthy (you know, like providing health care). These are the cornerstones of Democratic priorities.

Phil: It seems to me that CEOs looking to grow, expand or manufacture would be eager to weave these rankings into their decisions.

Ethan: No CEO worth their salt is going to look at a ranking to decide where to locate. But they will look at where they want to live and where they can make money. Where they want to live is quality of life (including good schools for their kids), and making money has to do with workforce, transportation and, most importantly, customer access (either directly or through communication).


Phil: If that is all that matters, Maine should be booming. Rather, how much tax their business must pay and how much regulation they must overcome are chilling. Because these eat into their profits too much, they look elsewhere. In terms of quality of life, the amount of money you take home for basic needs and discretionary spending is also high on the list for many. Eliminating/reducing income taxes will go a long way toward helping with that.

Ethan: I just get tired of these races to the bottom. Why should we sell our souls for a short-term deal with long-term repercussions? Think of Great Northern Paper and Cate Street investors, and who can forget the trash to energy facility in Biddeford? Similar incentive deals, in vividly different parts of Maine, with the same result. Closed, goodbye, thank you for the cash.

Phil: We can also point to DeLorme, IDEXX and National Semiconductor as fine examples of balancing tax policy with good jobs and minimal environmental impact. The point is investment in Maine creates value for towns to support schools, roads, better quality of life and, ultimately, tax revenues when good jobs are created.

Ethan: I’m all in favor of attracting good employers – it’s just not all about taxes. Look at New York. A good Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, created 10-year tax-free zones for business, and in its first year it created 76 jobs. Seventy-six! And that’s after a $50 million marketing campaign. People, and CEOs, want to live and work in a state where they can make money, where we have good schools, responsive fire and police, a clean environment and where we show compassion for those in need. That stuff ain’t free.

Phil: It isn’t, but the good news is that Maine can still move significantly higher so that next year’s rankings are more remarkable. And the year after that. And the year after that. If we focus on tax policy, low energy costs and access to distribution hubs like air and sea, we can do this.

Ethan: The rankings I care about are the ones that show our schools as being the best, our wages being the highest and our quality of life the strongest. If that moves us up your business lists, then fine by me.

Phil: So how is our current state of affairs working for us? Aging population, few high-paying jobs (especially outside York and Cumberland County) and almost a third of our citizens on welfare. Surely you agree we can’t expect better results by raising taxes and clinging to a disabling regulatory processes.

Ethan: I’m simply saying what your survey is saying. Two-thirds of what CEOs are looking for are quality of life and a strong workforce. Sure, taxes and regulation matter, but the rest matters much more. But all your party seems to focus on is the former.

Phil: They all matter, but I am suggesting Maine is heading in the right direction on these issues, so let’s keep moving to the right. … Just kidding. Calm down.