Op-ed: Strong Maine economy is best way to attract young families

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By Bruce Poliquin | The Times Record | December 5, 2019

Not long ago, Maine received some disturbing press coverage from the national media. One headline in The Washington Post paints a dark future for our State because of an aging population and shortage of long-term care workers. Many of us are all too familiar with this issue as we help care for our aging parents.

Another article in the Associated Press reported Maine’s median household income fell from $57,486 in 2017 to $55,602 in 2018, while families nationwide experienced an 0.8 percent increase. The income drop was likely due to the retirement of lots of higher-earning workers and their replacement by lower-wage employees.

Both of these sobering articles should sound the alarm to our predicament here in Maine. We are the oldest state in the nation and we desperately need young families to fill our schools, run businesses, and care for our elderly.

The best way to attract young workers is to build a strong economy with good-paying jobs. Maine’s economy has come a long way over the past several years. The unemployment rate was 2.9 percent in August, the lowest on record and well below the national average. More Mainers are working than ever before, including women and minorities. There are more available jobs than workers willing or able to fill them, and Maine’s tight labor market is pushing up wages for middle class families faster than in most other states.

This didn’t happen by accident. Government’s job is to put in place the building blocks so businesses can expand, hire more workers and pay them more. That’s why I pushed so hard in Congress to reduce taxes, end unnecessary regulations and negotiate better trade deals. Now, Maine and America can better compete with the outside world, and win.

Another ingredient for a healthy state is fiscal discipline. When government spending is under control, your taxes are less likely to go up. That means families keep more of their hard-earned wages. It’s common sense that young families are attracted to states with lower taxes, more jobs and bigger paychecks.

Before serving in Congress, I served as the State Treasurer. I worked tirelessly with Gov. LePage and the Republican Legislature to put Maine’s fiscal house in order. Spending was controlled and we started paying off our smothering public debt. For the first time in memory, Maine’s debt clock was unwinding. This solid foundation helped propel today’s strong economy.

Unfortunately, over the last year, Maine politicians with little or no business experience have been chipping away at our robust economy. If they continue, Maine will never be able to attract the young adults we need to turn things around.

Governor Mills and the spendthrift Democrat majority in Augusta passed a huge 11 percent spending increase in the current state budget. This likely will lead to higher taxes and fees of all kinds down the road, resulting in slower economic growth and fewer jobs.

They’re doing everything they can to force Maine families and businesses to use more expensive wind and solar energy. Augusta’s aggressive push to “price out” traditional energy sources will hurt seniors on fixed incomes, the working poor and young families just starting out.

Democrats are also pushing the crazy idea to eliminate private healthcare plans that over 600,000 Mainers receive through their jobs. These hardworking Mainers’ plans will be cancelled and they’ll be forced into a government run bureaucracy, the unsustainable Medicare-For-All scheme. They’ll lose the freedom to choose the healthcare plans that works best for their family. Taxes would soar in a losing effort to pay for it.

Maine’s recent lurch to the extreme political left also includes an open and unlimited invitation to illegal immigrants with promises to pay for housing, healthcare, food, transportation and so on. This frightens young parents who see vulnerable seniors, homeless veterans and children with disabilities pushed to the back of the line for vital public services. God forbid their own kids and parents might someday need that assistance.

Governor Mills and her Democrat majority in the legislature inherited today’s strong economy, abundance of jobs and rising wages. Sadly, they’re squandering this opportunity by steadily returning to Maine’s legendary unfriendly business climate.

Last week, another successful Maine business owner told me he bought a home in Florida and plans to move there soon. It hurts the little guy when Maine chases away entrepreneurs and the jobs they create.

If Augusta returns to the old “business-as-usual,” it will be turning its back on the next generation we so desperately need here in Maine.

Bruce Poliquin is a former Congressman who represented Maine’s 2nd District.

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