Policymakers are always asking: ‘What can we do to attract young, talented people to our state?’
In Maine – which has the highest median age of any state – this question is posed regularly and rhetorically. Depending on which side of the aisle you sit, the quandary has already been resolved; whether it “free” college and health care, or reducing taxes to make the state more business friendly.
However, policymakers often overlook whether it is even possible for someone to move to Maine and continue working without interruption. If you are a licensed professional, like a dentist, doctor, engineer, nurse or tradesman (professionals Maine needs), the answer is almost an unequivocal ‘No.’
Why? Because many occupational licenses granted in Maine are not reciprocal, nor does Maine immediately recognize all licenses issued by other states. In some cases, like physicians, it depends entirely on your occupation and from which state you moved. In others, talented professionals who move to Maine must wait for months while filling out needless paperwork, taking exams or paying fees.
If someone from outside Maine moves here and wishes to continue working in their desired field, government should not stand in their way; particularly if the state s/he moved from licenses the same profession. In these instances, the worker should be allowed to work on Day One instead of having to go through the lengthy and burdensome licensing process.
Despite having already proved their worth to another state’s licensing board, some licensed workers who move to Maine are forced to fill out forms and applications, pay fees, produce documents related to their credentials (college transcripts, test scores, etc.) or pass exams just to obtain a license to work in Maine.
When a licensed worker relocates here, obtaining a Maine license should be as simple as having our licensing board consult with the licensing board in the state from which the worker moved. If the worker was licensed in that state, in good-standing and can prove their identity, they should be free to work in Maine without any interference from government.
No applications. No fees. No studying or taking exams. No hunting down outdated credentials, which are costly and difficult to obtain. No burdens. Just work.
Of course, this would be easier to achieve if we did not foolishly license so many occupations in the first place.
The special interests that have succeeded in obtaining licensure want Maine people to believe that the goods and services produced in their industry are not “high-quality” or worth your dollar unless they come from someone who has obtained a permission slip from the state.
But much like the inspection sticker we are required to obtain annually, an occupational license guarantees nothing. It does not guarantee quality nor ensure safety. It is merely protectionist government, where those who succeed lobbying the legislature are provided the luxuries of limited competition and significant wage premiums, and legislators get a slush fund in exchange.
To compound already troubling matters, there are dozens of regulatory alternatives that protect consumers without mandating licensure, which is among the most burdensome of regulations government can impose.
In many of the occupations Maine licenses, like boxers, dietitians, land surveyors and log scalers, market competition alone could eliminate or substantially reduce the health and safety risks associated with the profession (if genuine threats to the public exist, of course).
If we want to entice talented workers to Maine, we should ensure they can start working the day they arrive. While it’s hard for Maine to justify many of the licensing regimes that already exist, it is exponentially more difficult to defend why proven, qualified and talented professionals cannot immediately begin working after relocating to Maine.