After years of fixing Maine’s balance sheet, now is the time to make investments in our economy.
During this past session, I supported three initiatives that focused on using bonds to invest in Maine families and our future: transportation; commercialization; and education.
Investing into our transportation system to maintain Maine’s infrastructure is critical. Our economy relies on transportation, and we must ensure our roads, bridges and ports are accessible, safe and reliable to transport goods to consumers.
The Department of Transportation has proven they can do it in a frugal, fiscally responsible way. In my budget proposal, I provided options to free up funding for the highway fund, but the legislature rejected these proposals and spent those funds on other things. That’s why I support a $100 million bond and encourage the Legislature to do the same.
Commercialization has not been the focus of our state’s bond sales. Instead, Maine has supported research-and-development bonds under the belief it will create jobs. This is only partly true.
While research and development is needed—and Maine has spent tens of millions on it—the product that is created must go to market. Developing a patent that sits on a shelf is not a good return on investment for the Maine taxpayers.
That’s when commercialization becomes very important. Maine has innovative entrepreneurs who create a vast array of products. If we invest in commercialization like we do in research, we could have even more products and services on the market.
It’s why I support a commercialization bond for $50 million, and I encourage the Legislature to do the same.
Finally, we must do something transformative to attract young people to our workforce. Maine is an aging state. We are the oldest state in the nation with a media age of 44 years old—and we are getting older. The national average is about 35.
For companies looking to locate or grow in Maine, we need to attract skilled workers such as scientists, engineers and technology professionals to live and work here. Otherwise, we will see our businesses leave. And as our population continues to age, we will need to attract more doctors, nurses and medical professionals to serve our healthcare needs.
Enabling our employers to offer meaningful loan repayment as part of a recruiting package will give Maine companies a competitive advantage in attracting the young, skilled talent that we so desperately need. I believe a first-in-the-nation effort to help young professionals repay their student loans on an accelerated basis will put Maine on the map and succeed in attracting young people.
The Education Opportunity tax credit has been too complicated and too small to make a difference. Our situation is serious, and we cannot afford to nibble around the edges.
I support a $100 million bond that would enable young people who work in Maine to pay off their student loans over 5 to 7 years, provided they choose to live and work in Maine.
We have an opportunity to support bonds that will transform the Maine economy and build a platform for success.
If others disagree with my proposals, I ask them this: how do you propose we attract younger people and strengthen Maine’s economy? Politicians in Augusta must stop thinking about the next election, and start focusing on our next generation.