In Maine, we have a choice to make. We can continue to move backward and let middle class families fall through the cracks, or we can move forward with a vision for our economic future that ensures job creation and opportunity for working families.
Right now, more than 50,000 people are looking for work in Maine. While many states across the country have started to move forward and emerge stronger from the recession, Maine’s economy was among only a handful that moved backward and shrunk, according to a report released last week from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Maine families across our state are struggling. We have some of the lowest wages in the country, and we are dead last in the nation for personal income growth, according to a separate review from the bureau. That is unacceptable.
And we took another step backward last week when the governor announced that he will slow down and halt investments in economic development that have already been approved by Maine voters. As a result, job creation at the Brunswick Naval Air Station, research programs at Maine’s universities and labs and improvements in our downtowns are at risk of losing ground.
Instead of creating jobs and getting our economy moving forward again, we’ve seen one Republican idea after another attack working people and middle class families. For the past two years under GOP control, it has become harder to live and work in Maine. Republicans in Augusta are leading our state backward down the wrong path. Their solution for fixing Maine’s economy isn’t working.
Investment in innovation and future economic development have been held hostage by tea party politics. Engineering and technology graduates at our universities and community colleges will have fewer job choices because the GOP refused to make common-sense investments in research and development that have helped companies such as Jackson Laboratories and Old Town Fuel and Fiber innovate and create jobs in Maine.
Investments such as these have created and preserved more than 500 high-paying jobs in our state during the worst economic downturn in decades. We need more of these smart investments to move our state forward.
Meanwhile, initiatives that help seniors pay for prescription drugs and medical care have been slashed; funds that help working parents pay for child care have been eliminated; and tax cuts have been given to the wealthiest Maine people. These policies have not helped job creators; they have simply created more wealth for those at the top, and left working families behind.
Worse, because of the GOP health insurance deregulation, we have seen rates skyrocket, leaving small businesses and older residents in rural Maine behind to pay more to see a doctor or fill a prescription.
After two years of Republican control in Augusta, Maine families are worse off, left in the dust behind insurance companies and big corporations. We’ve seen costs shift and insurance rates increase for middle class families and businesses.
Democrats believe Maine people should be working their way into the middle class, not getting pushed out. We want good American jobs, wages and benefits for a hard day’s work. We believe the best way to improve our economy is by making common sense investments that will help small businesses, jobs training and public education.
We must choose a path forward together of thoughtful investments, job creation, and support for those who need it and not settle for anything less.
Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, is the Democratic leader of the Maine House.