You want to know how Maine’s median age has changed over the decades: Page 19. You want a backgrounder on Maine school costs: Page 23. You want to see how Maine compares to other states for employment, debt, gross-state product and number of prisoners: Pages 90-94. The Maine Economic Atlas, just published by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, has those answers and hundreds more, and could become a standard reference for lawmakers, schools, the media – anyone who needs a well-documented fact book on this state.
Edited by Roy Lenardson of the center, the Maine Economic Atlas provides a multitude of statistics on demographics, education, economics, health care and taxation. Each section begins with an essay that provides an overview of the topic and points out some of the more pressing issues now facing Maine. The atlas itself is intelligently and attractively organized to make it easy to find information within the various sections.
No selection of statistics comes absent all political outlook, and the nonprofit Heritage Policy Center is a distinctly conservative enterprise. A liberal group might choose to emphasize another set of data, but the atlas is fair and straightforward. The essays – by UMaine Professor Philip Trostel, former Labor Commissioner Val Landry, former state economist Laurie Lachance as well as Heritage members J. Scott Moody and Tarren Bragdon – are well reasoned and informative.
In his introduction, center president Bill Becker says, “This resource guide does not make sweeping or specific policy recommendations – that is not the intent. Our goal with the atlas is to provide a benchmark for the serious and necessary public policy discussions that must take place.” The center has taken a large step toward its goal, and subsequent editions in coming years that update figures and further refine the statistical look will be equally welcome.
The center plans to send the atlas to lawmakers and others involved in state policy this winter; it is available to the public at the center’s Web site: http://www.mainepolicy.org/.