#42 Maine

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

From 2012

State Facts

Net Migration Rate (?) 2.1 % 
Personal Income Growth (?) 2.09 %
How does the freedom ranking relate to these?


Maine has long been one of the freest states in the country personally and one of the least free economically—the opposite of Alabama. Since 2009, however, the state has gradually improved on economic freedom.

Maine’s taxes have long been high but have come down a bit in recent years. State taxes fell from 7.1 percent of personal income in FY 2007 to a projected 6.2 percent today. Local taxes have remained basically steady over that period. Mainers have slightly less choice of local government than other New Englanders, but more than most Americans: about 1.5 jurisdictions per 100 square miles. Government debt is reasonably low, at 15.7 percent of income, and government employment is down to 12.2 percent of private employment (from a peak of 12.9 percent in 2010). Subsidies are about average and have risen slightly over time.

Maine is one of the most regulated states for land use in the country. Indeed, we show that exclusionary zoning leaped upward in Maine between 2000 and 2006 and has risen further since then. Maine has the most extreme renewable portfolio standard in the country, by our measure. It has a fairly modest minimum wage and no right-to-work law. In 2011–12, a telecom deregulation bill was passed. Different measures of occupational freedoms give a conflicting picture of that policy, but there is no doubt that Maine allows more scope of practice to second-line health professions than just about any other state. Freedom from abusive lawsuits is above average in Maine and has improved steadily over time. The state enacted an anti-science labeling law for genetically modified organisms in 2013–14 that will take effect only if other states sign on. It also has a price-gouging law and a general law against sales below cost. So remember not to price your goods either higher or lower than the state legislature deems acceptable.

Maine is a progressive state with ample gun and cannabis rights, same-sex marriage since 2012 (legalized by ballot initiative), very low incarceration rates, and a better-than-average civil asset forfeiture law. It is, in brief, a very civil libertarian state. However, tobacco consumers will face extraordinarily high taxes ($1.70 a pack in 2006 dollars) and have been evicted from commercial private property by penalty of law. Educational freedom is also low. The state regulates private schools to the hilt: teacher licensing, detailed curriculum control, and state approval. However, some towns can “tuition out” to private schools, a form of voucher law that has been on the books for decades. Limited public school choice was enacted in 2011–12. We also show gambling freedom increasing over time, as the legal industry has expanded. Alcohol freedom is below average, due to state monopolization of wine and spirits retailing.

Policy Recommendations

  • Fiscal: Cut spending on public welfare and housing and community development. Maine is the most free-spending state on public welfare in the country, going even beyond Alaska and Vermont, and it also spends more than average on housing and community development. Also cut individual and corporate income taxes.
  • Regulatory: Roll back exclusionary zoning, perhaps by allowing state veto of local zoning ordinances that limit housing supply.
  • Personal: Sell off the state liquor stores, and replace the markup with a transparent ad valorem tax, as Washington has done. Maine will never be able to compete with New Hampshire prices anyway; perhaps it can compete on convenience.
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