Maine does not need to reinvent itself to attract and retain young people, Maine’s culture and people simply need to be allowed to flourish. How do you convince young people like me to choose Maine, even after we have left? I want low taxes, fewer barriers to good jobs, and a better Maine for all people. Here are three steps Maine could take to accomplish these this year:
One: Lower Taxes
Mainer’s pay the third highest tax burden in the United States. Maine should:
Young people may not know these numbers off hand, but when they go to look for jobs, they know the impact: Maine’s high taxes have driven businesses away and force young people to find jobs elsewhere.
Maine is not competitive. New Hampshire, which has 0% income tax and a 7.9% corporate tax (scheduled to decrease again in December 2019 and December 2021) is right next door. As Maine spends more, businesses feel the pinch, and jobs that would attract young people become scarce.
Two: Low Barriers to Good Jobs
On April 10, 2019 Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2569, making Arizona the first state to recognize all out-of-state occupational licenses.
Maine should replicate Arizona’s bill, and also eliminate the licensing of all professionals not in public safety. Young people need opportunities, not more red tape.
Maine currently requires more than 20% of the workforce to be licensed. That means over 100,000 Mainer’s are forced to pay an average of $181 for permission to earn a living. This does not make Maine safer, it just means fewer opportunities. Maine’s barbers currently require more training than our EMTs. The system is upside down and especially unfavorable to blue collar workers.
Many Maine business owners want lower barriers to entry for employees, but legislators create artificial hurdles like licensing and fees. Maine licensing programs have resulted in a misallocation of approximately $2.6 Billion: $4,719 per household.
Young people want opportunity when choosing a home. Other states are making success easier than ever while Maine falls behind.
Three: Preserve the way life should be
“The way life should be” is an iconic slogan for Maine. To everyone who crosses the border via bridge or backroad, the way life should be has a different meaning. That ideal is a strength of Maine’s, with each person free to pursue our own interpretation of the motto.
The way life should be has gotten harder to find for young people as Maine has continued to increase taxes and make doing business harder for entrepreneurs. As more Mainer’s feel that opportunities are limited or that things are changing for the worse, even those of us born here choose to leave and raise our families elsewhere. It’s not a hypothetical, it’s happening.
When legislators take money out of Mainer’s pockets and limit economic opportunity, they are forgetting that strong local communities have been the backbone of the state. It is fatal to assume a one size fits all option is best: we all have our own passions that are worth pursuing.
Current proposals designed to attract and retain youth in Maine imagine a new Silicon Valley, but Maine has a small population, and a niche culture. Solutions requires a people centric approach that doesn’t change what makes Maine so wonderful. States experiencing success lean toward liberty.
Maine’s ocean views, mountain landscapes, and amazing culture mean nothing if they come at the cost of my family’s future. When Maine jobs and lower taxes are a reality young people, myself included, will believe it when they see the sign: welcome home.