Maine needs to get serious about change
Hello, I am Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow.
Any discussion of the state’s efforts to expand broadband access needs to be part of a much wider discussion on Climate Change. I don’t mean Global Warming, I am talking about changing the BUSINESS climate in Maine so that we make it more welcoming to innovative employers and their existing and potential employees.
Expanding access to broadband is one part of a larger whole that we need to address as an overall strategy. But broadband does require a comprehensive plan to ensure that we get the most accomplished for every dollar we spend.
That plan should address several important questions.
- If we had a list of 100 communities who are in need of broadband expansion and we could rank their need, how can we be sure that the money we allocate to broadband will reach the neediest ten and not the last ten on the list?
- And, how do we reach out to communities who do not even have the resources to apply for grants or to navigate the entire funding system?
- What exactly will we do with each million dollar investment?
Broadband is only one part of a larger set of needs that should be addressed as part of a comprehensive effort to improve Maine’s economic environment.
It is pretty commonly known in Maine and elsewhere that our state ranks in the top three in the U.S. for highest tax burden.
Recently, a survey showed that the rent for a one bedroom apartment in Maine rose 23% in 2019, faster than all but two other states. That average statewide cost is now $1,500 per month, a hefty sum for a new college graduate.
And by placing more and more government-imposed burdens on businesses like construction companies, we have made it virtually impossible for Mainers to afford to build a new home.
In our modern world, educated young people are free agents, able to take their skills and talents wherever they choose, and they have. To keep them in Maine, and to attract new people just like them, state government needs to focus its energies and policies on helping these young families by developing policies and tax structures encourage businesses to grow and consider moving here instead of moving away.
To convince companies and families to make a lasting commitment to our state we need to send a message to the rest of the world that our state government is acting efficiently and effectively. We have not always done this and we need to remedy this problem.
Not many years ago, the state of North Carolina took this journey. They reformed their tax code, and methodically reduced the burdens placed on business activity. Their state made headlines in 2013 when it passed a comprehensive tax reform package.
By lowering rates and broadening its tax base, North Carolina jumped from 44th to 12th in business-friendly climate. Since starting this journey, it has added 750,000 more citizens in just six years.
Maine now occupies North Carolina’s old position as the 44th business-friendly state in the U.S., and proposing large borrowing and spending packages without a comprehensive plan is just one part of what we need to do in order to bring about business climate changes here in Maine.
Decades of this inattention to the needs of businesses and a neglect of working families has left Maine as the oldest state in the nation, with a significantly smaller school age population and a higher death rate than birth rate. These are the overarching issues that we need to address and while broadband is a large part of the solution, we need to look at the larger, more comprehensive economic strategy.
For example, highlighting the poor condition of our roads and bridges then proposing budgets that request and allocate only a fraction of the needed revenue does not instill confidence in those who might consider locating a business in our state or uprooting their family to live here.
And it will surely do nothing to encourage 75,000 new workers to move to our state, and certainly not the 750,000 that have moved to a business-friendlier North Carolina.
Maine needs a real long-term economic plan with real and effective incentives that will compel more people to come and join us in this wonderful place.
So, thank you for listening. Again, I am Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow. Have a wonderful weekend!