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Creating jobs and prosperity in Maine is an undertaking that will need to move forward on several fronts. Our tax burden, the costs of health care and energy, and our business climate are all things that must be addressed.

We must also commit to educating and training our students at a very high level. Every student should graduate from high school ready for college or a career in a skilled trade.

And we need to make sure cost effective educational programs are always available for members of our work force looking to expand their skills or transition into an industry with better prospects.

Prosperity is a choice we have to make here in Maine. We must align our regulations and our resources so that our private sector has a fighting chance to create jobs and make investments that expand our tax base.

And we cannot start soon enough.

Maine created just 56 net new jobs in the last decade. Over the same span our population grew by about 44,000 and our Medicaid enrollment increased by 100,000 people. Now one-in-four Mainers are on the program.

Those who argue that our challenges are too great merely need to look west to New Hampshire to see what is possible.

In New Hampshire the Forbes business climate ranking is 19th in the country compared to our spot at the very bottom of the list. Being a more welcoming place for commerce makes a huge difference to New Hampshire families.

New Hampshire’s population exceeds our 1.3 million inhabitants by just 6,000 people. Yet their $60 billion gross domestic product is 20% larger than our $50 billion in economic activity.

New Hampshire’s vibrant economy leads to a dramatic difference in household incomes between our two states. The Granite-State household income is $63,731, high enough for 7th in the country.

Here in Maine, household incomes average $46,581. Our earnings put us 37th in the country and an astounding $17,150 below our neighbors to the west.

What Maine family would not be better off with an additional $17,000 to make ends meet?

Because New Hampshire has so much more prosperity, they are able to fund government at much lower tax burden. Mainers devote more than 10 percent of their incomes to state and local taxes. In New Hampshire the tax burden is just 8 percent.

New Hampshire is not nirvana. It is a northern New England state just like Maine with a similar heritage, love of the outdoors and rural nature.

From a competitive standpoint, proximity to Boston and other big markets is an advantage. But a few miles of interstate do not tell the whole story about why New Hampshire is much more prosperous than Maine.

It is the additional burdens and costs that the private sector in Maine must endure to achieve success that accounts for most of what separates our states economically.

While we would never want to co-opt New Hampshire’s motto of, “Live Free or Die,” we need a healthy dose of the attitude here in Maine. Our people and our markets must be free from infringement in order to thrive.

It will take hard work, but we can put Maine on a footing where we can compete with New Hampshire and the world. Dirigo, Maine’s motto, translates to “I lead.” Certainly it will take leadership of many to achieve our goals.

Thank you for listening and enjoy the weekend.

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