Why are people leaving The County?

Recent census data shows that Aroostook County is losing population.  Applying the logic contained in a recent blog post from the State Treasurer’s office, the main reason for such flight must be The County’s phenomenally high tax burden. 

Wait a second.  Maine’s overall population has increased since 2000 and much of the migration from Aroostook County has been to more urban and suburban areas of the state, where in many instances local property taxes are actually higher.  What’s the real story?

The reason people move is jobs.  Maine’s urban and suburban regions drive the state’s job growth.  People move to urban centers to make a decent living despite typically higher local taxes.  How does this square with Treasurer Poloquin’s bleak assessment of Maine’s economy and future prospects? 

It doesn’t. 

As recent analyses by Iris J. Lav and Kim S. Ruben and  Jon Shure of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities demonstrates, taxes are a minor determinant in location decisions and economic outcomes of a particular region.  To better understand what does make a difference, take a look at what folks in Aroostook County are doing to stem the tide of outmigration.  They are investing in their local economy with public and private resources and attempting to build on local assets to create new economic opportunity.  The Maine Winter Sports Center, development at the former Loring Air Force Base, growth in call centers and green energy are all supported by targeted investments in education and infrastructure, public/private partnership and leadership not by tax cuts and infighting.  Folks in The County have a can-do attitude and their investments are already yielding results. Treasurer Poliquin and his allies in the LePage administration would do well to learn from this example.  They need to reassess their flawed view of what’s important to Maine people and communities and take action to promote shared prosperity for all.