Governor Baldacci talked to students at UM Farmington before a town hall meeting. Investing in education is key to the governor’s vision for the state, and he is working toward a K-16 education system for all of Maine.

“People are the most important resource in my economic plan.” – Governor Baldacci

April/May 2006

Article and Photos by Ramona du Houx

Governor John Baldacci believes in helping the people of Maine by giving them a hand up, not a hand out. He has invested in the people of Maine with his Community College System, economic Pine Tree Zones, research and development funds, improving the information superhighway accessibility, starting a health-care system, and standing by them.

By investing in the people of Maine, the economy grows. And it has. More people are employed in Maine than ever before. The creative economy is taking off.

People are always first on Governor Baldacci’s agenda. This past winter he helped low-income families with heating oil expenses by creating the KeepME Warm charitable fuel fund, which gave $5 million from the state to be matched by donations. He also brokered a deal with Citgo for discounted oil. He took immediate action to protect citizens from the mismanaged Medicare D program. When the flooding occurred in York county, he was there not only holding hands but helping plan how to best get aid to people in need.

535a711f11c37942-investing2                   (photo) York Beach shop owner Peggy Fennelly was comforted by Governor Baldacci during the flood damage in the area this spring. “I started to cry, and he hugged me,” Fennelly said. “You’re a strong lady and you’ll make it,” said the governor reassuringly. Two weeks later she was back in business ready for Memorial Day and shared a celebration breakfast with the Governor.

“Governor Baldacci has a strong record of standing up for all Maine workers. He led the effort that saved hundreds of jobs at Great Northern Paper in Millinocket. He led the coalition that successfully defended both the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service center in Limestone against the Pentagon’s efforts to close them,” MSEA President Dana Graham said in a statement of his union’s endorsement. “Governor Baldacci shares the priorities of working families and retired workers.” MSEA-SEIU Local 1989 represents some 10,000 workers.

Governor Baldacci inherited a $1.2 billion structural deficit. He’s managed to balance the budget year after year, despite the continual cutbacks and mandates from the federal government and no money in the Rainy Day Fund. Now this surplus is $100 million. Baldacci has turned state finances around.

During his time in office he has always invested in the people. This investment strategy may not win accolades by multimillionaire corporate executives, but it is the way of the future. The governor is leading the way.

Trickle-down economics has proven to be a feudal system, one that cannot be relied on. For corporate executives making top dollar, there always seems to be something to invest in other than people. By utilizing state resources, working with partnerships and programs to help people make a decent living—have educational opportunities and health care—the state has moved forward and the economy has grown.

Income growth in Maine over the last five years exceeded the national average according to analysis by the newspaper USA Today.

According to the analysis, per-capita income in Maine grew 6.1 percent from 2000 to 2005 after adjusting for inflation. The national average was 2.2 percent. “Maine has worked to reduce higher-than-average business costs for taxes, health care, and workers’ compensation,” stated the report.

By investing in people the governor is creating opportunities. Caryln Little, who attends Coney high school, is focused on becoming a nurse. She’s already saving up by working at a restaurant after school. “Since I was five that’s all I’ve dreamt about doing.” She’s an honor roll student taking five AP classes. Her options for colleges are vast but she wants to stay in Maine. “I love it here. And there are benefits available to people who study nursing, so I will be able to afford it.” This summer she intends on taking courses at the local community college in nursing. “I’m going to go for my CNA. It will look great on my resume and show colleges that I’m serious about my studies. I’m excited.” Little’s boyfriend is not as keen on attending college, “He’s a hands-on kind of guy who loves being outside. He’s always looking out the window in his classes and wants to have a landscaping business. He had no intention of going to college.” Little convinced him to take courses at the local community college, knowing that when he earns a degree his income will increase.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn $900,000 more in a lifetime than a high school graduate. Graduates of the Maine Community College System, have 100 percent job placement rates.

Investing in education is key to Maine’s future in the global economy. This session the governor increased the state’s educational funding share by $250 million, increased AcadaMe, and allocated $5.8 million for the University College System to keep tuition reasonable. While the number of students focused on getting a college education is growing, the state currently only has 17 percent of adults with college degrees.

Over 150,000 workers in Maine still rely on minimum-wage incomes. Investing in people by raising the minimum wage raises their self-esteem. During this session the governor raised the state’s minimum wage by 50 cents. The minimum wage plays a pivotal role in our economy and the health and well-being of families and communities. If workers aren’t earning enough to live on, then they obviously don’t have extra cash to spend in the local economy. They are forced to forgo simple pleasures most people take for granted. This adds stress to families.

“Workers making minimum wage are not getting overpaid by any stretch of the imagination,” said the governor. “Now, we are making it more of a livable wage.”

Unjust wages make people dependent upon the state for other needs. Fair wages build stronger more stable economies, and give workers the respect they deserve.

“Increasing every Mainer’s opportunity for a good paying job, with benifits, continues to be my number one priority,” said Governor Baldacci. “People are the most important resource in my economic plan.”

Recently the Workplace Environment Index put Maine in a tie for 12th place nationally, based on the way workers are treated in each state in terms of job opportunities, job quality, and workplace fairness. The report, released by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, compares average pay, employment opportunities, employee benefits, percentage of low-income workers, fair treatment between genders, and ability of employees to unionize.

“This is further proof that we have a tremendous workforce in this state, and they are treated well,” Jack Cashman, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development said. “That is another plus we have for economic development.”

Pine Tree Zones (PTZs) are creating economic development zones. Over 53 businesses are PTZ certified and 3,200 jobs can be attributed to the governor’s program that gives tax incentives enabling businesses to grow, and economically challenged areas to become more attractive for new businesses to set up in.

PTZs are creating a positive economic ripple effect. As a company becomes certified and hires new workers, more money is available to spend locally. Small-business entrepreneurs who have assessed the area see that there now is a market for their goods, and they have decided to set up shop. Cafés, and specialty shops are springing up all across the state, often near companies that are PTZ certified.

The governor is always seeking ways to help small business development. He has repealed the business equipment tax, increased R&D funding, is improving broadband access, and is fostering the creative economy. During the past three years over 1,400 new small businesses were launched in Maine, creating close to 5,000 new jobs.

“I’d like Maine to become the small business capital of America.” — Governor Baldacci

All three New York City bond rating agencies recently announced the state is on sound financial footing. Investing in people has proven to be the key component to economic growth in Maine with Governor Baldacci’s vision.

It’s not surprising that the Organization for Economic Opportunity and Development recently selected Maine as one of the sites for a major international study examining the links between economic and workforce development.