For all the dismay and disappointment attending the Legislature’s vastly incomplete performance over this last term, there is at least one break in the clouds over Augusta.
The reporting data suggest that Maine’s fiscal house has been put in order over the past seven years. A dogged effort to plan ahead for government employee pensions is working. And there’s a renewed commitment to paying our bills now instead of sending debts on to future generations.
The most recent federal Bureau of Economic Analysis report highlights the results of Maine’s stubborn economic position.
Maine has clawed its way up the charts in New England, with personal income up 2.7 percent in 2017, ahead of Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island, while still trailing New Hampshire and the U.S. average of 3.1 percent.
Average household income in Maine last year placed 30th nationally, at $51,494. There are 29 other states below the national average of $55,775.
Over the last seven years, the Maine Legislature and Gov. Paul R. LePage have battled to lower government pension debt to manageable levels (Maine is ranked No. 16 nationally, ahead of the rest of the New England states), reduced taxes, bolstered the Rainy Day Fund and made government more accountable.
Yes, our incomes need to increase. We have the oldest average population age in the country, our housing stock also is among the oldest, our energy costs are too high, and we are, at the country’s northeastern corner, often the end of the train. But we have the advantages of proximity to Canadian markets, unique natural resources and inherent Yankee frugality. Mainers have proven they can do more with less.