April 30, 2018
From the Editor

Downtowns are key to rebuilding communities across the state

Fiber optic networks are critical to economic development, but downtowns are key to rebuilding some Maine communities.

For our focus on central and western Maine, Staff Writer Maureen Milliken visited Wilton, Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Rumford. (See Page 22.)

Officials are finding ways to leverage grant money to improve the infrastructure, including broadband networks, and bring people back to the downtowns. Bringing in retailers is a priority, but so are attractions like kayak parks, farmers' markets and live music.

"The more that are able to reinvent themselves and revitalize, the stronger the state's economy," Doug Ray, spokesman for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, told Maureen.

Downtowns across the state "are working to preserve their heritage and shore up their infrastructure," Maureen writes, "finding ways big and small to get people and businesses back downtown."

Reduce the tax burden, grow the population

Maine was recently named among the Top 5 states for tax burden.

Maine ranked No. 3, behind New York and Hawaii, according to WalletHub.

I had a conversation recently with an acquaintance who'd come into a nice sailboat, with a price of $1, courtesy of a doctor who was selling many of his possessions and moving out of state.

"He was fed up with the taxes," my acquaintance explained. He was tired of Maine and "all its taxes."

I was thinking he was moving to New Hampshire, Florida or even the Cayman Islands — places with no personal income tax. But the kicker was he was moving to Massachusetts, which I'd never heard of referred to as a tax haven.

It's safe to predict that the upcoming governor's race will provide plenty of fodder for candidates of both parties. Taxes will likely be a topic.

Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, vowed to cut government. Anyone coming into the office — whether a Democrat, Republican or independent — will have to get cooperation from the Legislature. Who's to say the new governor will have any luck reducing Maine's tax burden?

The challenge plays out on the local level all the time. Homeowners complain about high property taxes or about school districts asking for more money or spending on parks and recreation.

We could argue about whether Maine has too much government, but there's another aspect to the discussion. We don't have enough people to shoulder the burden. The population is stagnant and it's getting older. People are moving of the income-producing (and tax revenue generating years) and into retirement, which doesn't help our standing on WalletHub's ranking.

Let's get some more people in here to build businesses and add jobs. Should we aim to attract people from other states? Immigrants? Yes, both. Building a workforce will pay off in a number of ways.


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