AUGUSTA — Cigarette use among Maine youth is up, per capita income has slipped, and the income disparity between the state’s poor and wealthy counties is growing, according to a report released Thursday.
On the bright side, the Maine Economic Growth Council says workplace safety and the cleanliness of marine waters are improving and employment is increasing, although at a slower pace than New England as a whole.
“I would not say this is a sugarcoated view,” said Senate Majority Leader Chellie Pingree, the New Haven Democrat who serves as the council’s co-chair.
The Maine Economic Growth Council was created in 1993 to establish goals for the state’s long-term growth. Its 19 members are appointed jointly by the governor, speaker of the House and Senate president.
The council’s fourth annual report, “Measures of Growth,” evaluated Maine’s progress on 54 indicators of economic health and quality of life.
Eight of the indicators received gold stars to show where the state is doing particularly well. However, 11 indicators got red flags, meaning they are issues that need to be addressed.
Last year’s report looked at 57 indicators and included six gold stars and nine red flags.
Gov. Angus King joined Pingree and other legislative leaders in praising the study for giving policy-makers a “road map” of how the state is doing and where it needs to work harder.
House Speaker Elizabeth Mitchell and Senate President Mark Lawrence used the report to hammer home one of the Democrats’ biggest goals this year: more money for education.
“I was pleased in the report to see the relationship between investing in education and economic growth in our state,” Lawrence said.
The problem areas indicated in the report include personal income; job growth among new businesses; technology resources; the number of Mainers getting bachelor’s degrees; household income; income disparity by county; jobs that pay a liveable wage; cigarette smoking; modes of freight transport; paper and lumber employment; and commercial fishing.
Areas where Maine has shown exceptional performance include new products or services; on-the-job injuries; high school diplomas; business opinion of universities and colleges; voter turnout; tax fairness; water quality of marine areas; and tourism employment.