Brookings' recommendations reinforce the often-heard call for government and the state to run like a business. What do successful businesses do? They plan. They adapt as conditions change. They keep an eye on the bottom line and continually work to become more efficient. They make key investments for the long-term future. And, they carefully protect a brand name, knowing just how valuable it is. Along those lines, here is what Brookings urges Mainers to consider.
Strengthen our brand by safeguarding our small town, rural character
Maine is never going to have a competitive advantage over other states or countries that enjoy lower taxes or energy costs, a warmer climate or better educated workers. But Maine can beat just about everyone else as an attractive place to live. We have to build our economy around that unique competitive advantage.
Make a few large investments
Invest heavily in a few things that build on our brand and have the best chance of growing the economy. Then, stick with those investments over time. Resist the urge to tinker, spread the benefits to everyone and promote new ideas every election cycle. Give investments time to pay off.
Streamline government to finance investments and tax reduction
When we stack Maine up against other rural states one thing becomes clear. We have too much overhead and administration, and that takes up resources that could be more productively invested. We have 286 school districts, for instance, each with all the administrative layers. The national average for the number of students we have is about 66. We've got to find a way to deliver the services we need with fewer administrators so we can invest in our state's future and reduce taxes.
Don't sell the state as a cheap date
Get tourists to shoulder more of the tax load, as other states do. That would take some of the burden off Maine citizens and can be done in a way that will actually increase quality tourism.
Find new ways to work together
We have a regrettable and costly tendency, here in Maine, to divide ourselves by town or region, party affiliation or philosophy, income, and whether we're natives or folks "from away." All this division is costing us dearly when it comes to building the kind of future that we all want. The state is just too small to afford the luxury of those divisions for much longer. We've got to find new ways of working together on the things that need to be done.