#39 Maine

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The overall freedom ranking is a combination of personal and economic freedoms.

From 2009

Maine State Overview

State Facts

Net Migration Rate (?) 2.3 % 
Personal Income Growth (?) 1.07 %
How does the freedom ranking relate to these?


Maine is one of the most-improved states over the decade from January 1, 2001, to January 1, 2011, although its rank remains low overall. In 2009 and 2010 the state improved slightly on fiscal policy and personal freedom, but fell back slightly on regulatory policy.

Maine’s tax burden, at 11.2 percent of personal income, is comparable to that of New Jersey and Vermont, and is no longer an immense outlier like that of New York. The 2011—12 legislature cut taxes further. Maine’s public debt, consumption and subsidy spending, and employment are slightly better than average, while its fiscal decentralization is slightly worse than average.

Land-use regulation is strict in Maine, and eminent domain has not been sufficiently reformed. The state’s labor law is below average, with a minimum wage, no right-to-work law, restrictions on workers’ compensation funding, and a “smoker protection” law banning insurance discrimination. The state has adopted strict community rating for health insurance, banned elimination riders, and legislated many mandates—a bad combination, since price controls and heavy regulations are likely to drive profit margins close to zero and thus drive private insurers out of the state. However, Maine did repeal some mandates in the 2009—10 session. Maine is an excellent example of occupational freedom, but its examination requirements for licensure do require some reform. The state’s liability system is highly rated.

Maine’s rural character has preserved its relatively free firearms regime, but the 2009—10 legislature passed a bill requiring dealers to retain sales records. The first offense of low-level marijuana possession carries only a fine, and low-level cultivation is a misdemeanor. Maine has one of the most permissive medical marijuana laws in the country, and the maximum sentence for a single marijuana offense is a moderate-by-comparison 10 years. Private and home schools are tightly regulated; Maine is therefore ranked as one of the worst states on educational freedom. Maine has reformed asset forfeiture but needs to ban equitable sharing for this reform to be effective. Its incarceration and drug arrest rates are low and falling, but arrests for other victimless crimes are only about average. Maine allows same-sex partnerships (and in the 2012 elections approved same-sex marriage). Cigarette taxes are high, and smoking bans are pervasive.

Policy Recommendations

  • Lower the budgets for housing and community development and public welfare, which are well above national norms. Use the proceeds to lower income taxes.
  • Exclusionary local zoning laws require attention. Place statewide limits on what local governments can do to limit new residential construction.
  • Loosen standardized testing and notification requirements for homeschoolers, and remove approval, curriculum, and teacher licensure requirements for private schools.
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