Growing up and blowing away

Politics and other mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  August 2, 2007

State Representative Richard Sykes has discovered something alarming: old people are leaving Maine.

Which means everybody else can stay up late and party loud.

Sykes, a Republican from Harrison, recently posted his findings on the MaineFirst Web site. By examining the number of drivers licenses surrendered to other states and the ages of the drivers, he determined that between 2002 and 2006, more than 24,000 Mainers over age 50 paid $1.75 at the York toll booth and headed south. "These people have all made a decision about where they want to live in retirement," wrote Sykes, "and it's evidently not Maine."

The legislator concluded that the reason these people were no longer pining for the Pine Tree State is because of Maine's high taxes. Apparently, that information is included somewhere on drivers licenses. "What Maine has done by imposing a stiff estate tax is to drive out our wealthier residents — doctors, dentists, lawyers, business executives — who flee the state to avoid the tax," Sykes said, still gleaning amazing facts from licenses. "Their accountants tell them, 'Whatever you do, don't die in Maine.'"

Licenses, it seems, have these little eavesdropping devices in them.

While you're deciding what state you'd prefer to die in, consider a couple of facts. First, Sykes is correct in claiming Maine has a high tax burden. Numerous national studies have placed us at or near the top of the list in terms of how much we extract from the paychecks of anyone dumb enough not to get paid in cash. Second, almost everything else Sykes had to say is wrong.

Old people are not abandoning Maine. So, turn down that music, because the coots are about to call the cops.

Sykes's research has one major flaw. While it might be true that 24,000 codgers have shuffled off in their walkers to other states in the past few years, the US Census Bureau also reported that Maine's population has grown since 1999 by anywhere from 4000 to 8000 people annually — a significant portion of which were past their best-purchased-before dates.

A 2006 survey by the state Department of Transportation showed the typical in-migrant in mid-coast Maine was 45 to 64 years old, married, with no kids in the house and employed as a professional. Within five to 10 years, these newcomers are expected to outnumber the natives. While results in other areas of the state probably differ, the Internal Revenue Service has reported that 15 of Maine's 16 counties gained population in 2004 (Penobscot was the only loser). University of Southern Maine economist Charles Colgan's data indicates that, because birth and death rates in Maine are almost equal, virtually all population increases are due to in-migrants.

Sykes listed the states aging Mainers are most likely to flee to as Massachusetts, Florida, New York, and New Hampshire. Colgan's figures show that among the states people moving to Maine are most likely to come from are — activate the coincidence alarm — Massachusetts, Florida, New York, and New Hampshire.

Sykes might want to turn down the rhetoric. The rest of you better turn down that stereo.

Somebody else's but mine
There's only one possible reason Republican First District congressional candidate Charlie Summers has word for word the same position on the war on terror as GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.

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