According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Maine was the most rural state in the nation in 2010, with 61.3 percent of its population living in rural areas. And yet, it often seems like the only voices heard and the only issues being debated in Augusta come from our state’s more urban areas.
I was born and raised in Sanford, Maine – a rural former mill town. Like so many rural Maine families, I come from a family where the military and hunting and fishing are tradition. I will always ensure that rural Mainers and legislators and other elected officials representing rural communities are at the table and being heard as policies, priorities and agendas are being developed.
Among the priorities I see and have heard when it comes to growing Maine’s rural economy are:
- Basic respect, a seat at the table, and a partner in the Blaine House.
- No tax cuts favoring Portland, Southern Maine, or Maine’s top one-percent at the expense of rural Mainers. The current administration’s tax policies offered large tax cuts for wealthy southern Mainers and higher local property taxes for rural communities.
- State government should strive to meet revenue sharing goals. Revenue sharing is an important way that wealthier, more densely populated areas can support the health of the whole state’s economy, especially rural areas. Attacks on revenue sharing are property tax hikes on rural communities.
- Broadband infrastructure. Rural children start out behind if their parents have to park outside public libraries or coffee shops to try to poach Internet signals so that their child can do their homework. Small and medium sized companies can’t grow – and larger employers cannot expand – where there is not adequate, regionally, and nationally competitive broadband speed available. Expanding Maine’s true high-speed broadband infrastructure will be my number one economic and job creation priority.
- Agriculture infrastructure. Maine is lucky to have a growing population of young farmers, a vibrant food scene, and, as sector data says, the opportunity to grow thousands of jobs in agriculture and aquaculture. With the right support and policies, these jobs can be an important lift for rural Maine.