This is one of the first instances of a gubernatorial candidate (a new one, at least) offering his plan for Maine’s economic development. In this release, Mike Michaud, the former House Rep for the second district, outlines his future for the Maine economy and business circles, should he get elected to the governorship.
Michaud, on Wednesday, described this plan at a campaign event in Portland’s Rosemont Market, which he calls “Maine Made.” According to the candidate, the plan offers, in his words, “concrete proposals we can implement on Day One.” While it is impossible to validate that claim, it is fairly likely that Michaud’s goals are relatively achievable and realistic, given his track record over the past decade in the House of Representatives in D.C. Michaud has always found support from both republicans and democrats in the state of Maine, and has been lauded for practical, pragmatic, and relatively bi-partisan work in our nations capitol, despite. It makes sense then, that such a plan would be relatively bi-partisan and fairly moderate, as goes with the tradition that Maine has adhered to over the past century.
As for specific policy options that are explained throughout the report, several are fairly interesting. To begin, his plan to increase minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $9.00 an hour is a small enough change to limit drastic snowball effects throughout the economy. And while from an economic perspective, I generally disagree with minimum wages as a price floor that complicates a perfect market (if there ever was one, that is), it is also difficult to argue against such an increase from a humanistic perspective. In contemporary times, the minimum wage is insufficient to support most families, and is a hopelessly outdated figure to determine cost of living in our world. Because of this, his plan isn’t necessarily a bad one.
Michaud’s plan describes initiatives in six areas, making Maine’s business advantages priorities over conventional means of economic growth. Such advantages include a large small-business sector, farming and fishing, opportunity for expanding use of our renewable energy resources, and our vast tourism market. Similarly, Michaud’s plan also takes workforce development as a priority. One of the key points of his plan is the proposal to make sophomore year at any Maine university free for students. This is an interesting idea that certainly deserves discussion. While initially, one might scramble to oppose the idea, what with the Maine University System’s current deficit, which administrators are trying to bridge with such plans as the Blue Sky Plan, as well as increasing enrollment and freezing costs. However, this idea, while in the short run might look foolish, might have long-term positive effects. Many students drop out after freshmen year due to the costs of attending school, as well as a lack of motivation. However, this plan incentivizes staying in school, and could ultimately lead to more graduates and more individuals who are prepared to face the professional world than are currently produced through universities and colleges. A student who is struggling to make ends meet could feasibly justify staying in school if it meant one free year, which literally returns thousands of dollars to their pockets. Such an idea should be treated as an investment from the state into its youth, as it provides potential future benefit instead of shot-term solutions.
There are a variety of initiatives described in Michaud’s plan, and one could devote hundreds of pages to its analysis. The PDF of his plan is provided below. I think that his plan is generally a fairly good one that is bent on developing the state instead of strictly problem solving for the short term. Such plans are what this state needs, a way to combat systemic problems instead of applying a patch to be re-sewn later, as many past plans of this state have been.