AUGUSTA — Forbes Magazine has named Maine the worst state for business for the third year in a row. The magazine’s annual ranking puts Utah at the top.
“Maine’s problems run deep,” Forbes writes, citing high-energy costs, the highest median age in the nation and a corporate tax burden that Forbes says is the second highest in the country.
Between 2006 and 2011, according to Forbes, Maine’s economy contracted 0.6 percent annually, compared to an annual 0.5 percent growth rate nationally. The magazine notes that Maine has few big businesses and that per-employee productivity is low.
Rhode Island ranked 49 on the list, following Vermont (44), West Virginia (45), Mississippi (46), Michigan (47) and Hawaii (48). High scorers included Virginia (2), North Dakota (3) and North Carolina (4). Forbes said all but one of the top 10 states are so-called right-to-work states, where employees can’t be required to join a union and pay dues. Of the 10 worst states, Forbes notes, only Mississippi is a right-to-work state.
Forbes said its ranking is based on business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life.
In a statement, Gov. Paul LePage said he was disappointed but not surprised by Maine’s place on the Forbes list.
“We will continue to be on the bottom of the barrel until we make structural changes,” he said. “During the past two years, I have advocated over and over again for changes that will improve Maine’s economy. We’ve got to get serious about lowering energy costs, improving education and paying our bills.
“Without enacting bold changes, if Puerto Rico becomes a state, next year Maine’s ranking will drop to 51st,” LePage said.
LePage highlighted the Forbes ranking in 2011 and drew attention for, according to a Forbes editor, mischaracterizing what the editor told a LePage adviser about the factors that contributed to Maine’s low ranking.
Democrats pointed to the ranking as a sign that Republican policies that have been passed over the past two years haven’t had their desired effect.
“The rankings underscore how important it is for state leaders to get to work on real policies that strengthen Maine’s economy and rebuild our middle class,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “The policies of the past two years have not worked. We must prioritize short-term and long-term job creation to help create greater economic security for Maine people.”
Republicans, meanwhile, said their reforms are just beginning to have their effect.
“The Forbes report cited three primary factors — high taxes, energy costs, and median age,” said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport. “We have been working on taxes and energy costs in the face of opposition, and reforms we made last year and earlier this year are just beginning to take effect, but it is clear that we must do more. I hope that Democrats will prioritize the factors outlined in the Forbes Magazine ranking and that we can work together to make the changes Maine people need.”