Who in Maine Deserves a Raise?

In this season of hope, peace and goodwill to all, a Bangor Daily News editorial today (“Maine’s Low Wages”, 12/22/2010) comments on Governor-elect LePage’s recent lament that his top choices to head the Departments of Health & Human Services and Education had turned the jobs down because the salaries are too low. 

“Mr. LePage has a point about low salaries, but it is odd that one of his top advisers, Tarren Bragdon, heads an organization that touts a list of highly paid state employees. The Maine Heritage Policy Center has created a database that lists state employees by name and ranks them based on their compensation.  It defies logic to believe that the state’s commissioners are underpaid, but all other state employees are overpaid.”

The newspaper also notes that newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau confirms that median household income in Maine is the lowest among New England states, $4,700 below Vermont, the next lowest, and more than $21,000 less than Connecticut households, the highest in the region.

“Just as Maine’s commissioners are low-paid compared to their peers in other New England states, so is the average Maine worker,” the BDN writes.  “If Mr. LePage is to ‘put people before politics,’ as he often said on the campaign trail, he’ll have to worry about these numbers as much as the salaries of his commissioners.”

As MECEP’s new Choices (“When Hard Work Isn’t Enough: Fostering Opportunity for Maine’s Working Families”) makes clear, 1-in-4 one- Maine families “are trapped in low wage jobs.”  It raises concerns about suggestions by some members of the incoming Administration and Legislature that the only way to address Maine’s looming revenue shortfall is by cutting education and other services important to Maine families.

“Clearly, these hard working families deserve better economic opportunities,” the report adds. “They need more support and tools to be able to grow and thrive in the future economy.”