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NH envy: Maine gets jealous

In Maine, a state more than three times the size of New Hampshire, there exists a phenomenon called 'New Hampshire envy.' So declared The Boston Globe yesterday.

'We're always comparing to New Hampshire,' the Globe quoted Maine state Sen. Joseph Brannigan, a Portland Democrat, as saying. 'There's a great temptation for our people not only to envy them, but emulate them,'

It's easy to see why. New Hampshire has a 4.9 percent unemployment rate. Maine's is 7.6 percent. New Hampshire has no sales or income tax. Maine has both. Maine's average personal income is $7,000 less than New Hampshire's, making it the poorest state in New England, the Globe reported.

Of course Maine politicians have 'New Hampshire envy.' What's surprising is that some, like Brannigan, don't. He thinks it's a bad thing that Maine Republicans want to duplicate New Hampshire's success.

Brannigan has his counterparts in New Hampshire. They are the politicians who work every day to make New Hampshire more like Maine and Vermont. They want higher taxes and a more assertive state government.

Maine has a lot more of those politicians than New Hampshire does, which is the biggest reason that New Hampshire's economy outperforms Maine's. But Maine is now governed by politicians looking West for inspiration. That ought to concern us.

The New Hampshire Advantage is not written in granite upon the side of Cannon Mountain. It was created by Granite Staters who wished to preserve their economic and personal freedom. It can be destroyed if we ever lose our dedication to those principles or forget that it works because it gives us a comparative advantage over our neighbors. Let them catch up, and our Advantage will fade.

Maine politicians are trying to catch up. Their efforts are a warning to New Hampshire that protecting our Advantage requires constant vigilance.

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