From Vacationland to Work From Home Land
I just moved to New Hampshire from California as part of a bet on remote work, and that has paid off nicely. The winter was bad, but at this point neither as miserable nor unpredictable as a
California summer. (We had power the whole winter).
You could write a similar article about New Hampshire, though in a lot of respects , we’re already pretty well set up to be a remote work state by having built southern New Hampshire around being a Massachusetts commuter hub.
John Hodgeman and Matt Yglesias: my personal most exciting crossover event in history.
As a born & raised Mainer, my suggestions would be:
Give the state a fund to purchase old timber company land, and grant small lots to homesteaders who build a structure (not a trailer) there. This would mostly be in the rural 2nd District. Is this a huge-scale solution? No, but it would encourage a certain type of person to move to Maine, and any little bit helps on the margin. This could be funded with a bond, where the lifetime value of new residents is greater than the cost of purchasing the land. Maine was revitalized by a wave of hippie homesteaders moving in the 70s (including my parents!)- maybe the next wave could bring a new generation of off-the-grid types.
More radically, the state could find a financial way to keep recent grads- possibly a rent subsidy? Unlike most poor rural states, Maine has excellent colleges (Colby, Bates & Bowdoin), but of course most grads of elite colleges leave immediately upon graduation. A two or three year rent subsidy to live in Maine maybe could help keep them. It could also benefit Bangor (home of UMaine, a huge college) and Lewiston (home of Bates) just as much as Portland, so the 2nd District might be more amenable if they see a direct benefit to their largest cities
As Lance Hunter mentioned, you've got to consider winter.
It is amazing that in a piece that suggests Maine could really attract a lot of year-round residents who work remotely and looks to Florida as inspiration, Matt does not mention "winter" even once -- even though he himself only talks about how his family goes to Maine in the summer.
Yes, there are a lot of small bore good ideas in this piece. And the really challenging big idea of fundamentally changing the way taxes work in Maine. They all seem pretty good.
But if the goal to get more people to move to Maine year-round, you have to factor in people's willingness to deal with Maine's winters. Even though they've gotten milder in more recent years, they ate still New England winters. And, nationally, we do not see states with serious winters attracting tons of people the way we see states without serious winters.
Interesting take on the situation, and one that I would like to send to (a very likely non-subscribing) friend of mine who served a few terms - and I think may do so again - in the Maine House of Representatives. He was a proponent of Maine's new ranked-choice voting scheme, and so not afraid of new and weird ideas.
A couple thoughts:
While it's true that "reluctance to officially give up on the idea of a massive revival in the paper industry" is a part of what drives resistance to the idea of an upcountry national park, there is also a strong feeling among many that by making it a *national* park Mainers would be giving up too much to the authority of the federal government.
Likewise, environmental considerations are a part of the opposition to the CMP Corridor. But there is also a strong attitude that since the project will ultimately benefit Quebec and Massachusetts, and really no one else, why should Maine allow the use of its land?
There would also be pushback on the tax policy changes put forth here. Why would those in Maine's First District (the southern, denser, and much more prosperous part of the state) agree to share their relatively higher land valuation tax payments with the rest of the state's communities? Why would those in Maine's Second District (northern, rural, and used to getting beat up pretty bad economically) agree to let sales tax revenue be spent in the areas where its collected rather than going to the state's general fund? Yes, compromise is possible. But it's hard. (Hard boards, maybe?)
They literally just sponsored a developmental PGA Tour tournament called the “Live and Work in Maine Open.” Maine and all of its midsummer beauty was just on TV for every golf fan to see.
Hopefully a lot of people in their 30s and 40s said “Man… the second my parents move to Florida. I’m gonna start thinking about working remotely in Maine.”
>>>...there are plenty of people moving around, and capturing a relatively small share of them could be a complete game-changer for the state.<<<
I'm sure more people WOULD move to Maine if it weren't for the fact that you can't get theyah from heeah.
I personally know a fancy ad executive who's now based in Maine. No need to live in NYC. He just commutes to Manhattan and to his Midwestern client account every so often. And why not? It is beautiful.
Eh. Tennessee over Maine. Better weather, especially in winter. And no State Tax. Still easy to get to NY and other cities.
Alternative is Black Hills, SD. Also zero Tax.
Nice areas of Wyoming are expensive. Same with Nevada.
I have a cabin in Eastern Oregon. Underappreciated, but high state tax.
I was looking at Maine property a few years ago. Was so cheap. I should of lept, but so far away from Boise.
Also… my guess is most Mainers have no desire to overtly encourage more people moving there.
Boise and surrounding areas are becoming pretty big remote work locations. Direct flights to West Coast cities.
My coworkers… 100 travel, live anywhere… 16 of us live in…
1 ID (me)
4 Florida (no tax)
3 Tn (no Tax)
5 Tx (No tax). (1 has a house in Wisconsin… but splits time… claims Tx)
All the non-tax staters are there because of family ties.
Posting this because of the mention of land value tax:
The land! The land! 'Twas God who made the land!
The land! The land! The ground on which we stand!
Why should we be beggars with the ballot in our hand?
God gave the land to the people!
(But srsly tho, LVT is a good idea and why don't more places do it?)
MY basically views timber workers as an anachronism who should accept that their industry is dying and understand that the focus of politics will be accommodating their betters for the greater glory of the tax base. Isn’t that a little cavalier? It’s about as politically astute as Democratic support for Nafta or the TPP. It creates space for Republicans to lock down the working class vote through hollow appeals to nostalgia.
I thought Matt’s schtick was packaging progressive politics for a broader coalition that includes working stiffs. In that spirit, forestry is a competitive industry and minor cost differences can confer a competitive advantage. Why not use increased tax revenues from new residents to subsidize forestry jobs. Make it transparent, eg a $2 bonus paid directly to forestry workers for every hour they work up to 40 per week. This would let private employers offer lower wages and beat foreign competitors. The proposed national park is so far from the coast it wouldn’t be of much value to most remote workers anyway. Let the inland people maintain their lifestyle and use tax revenues from the coasts to gently subsidize it. Everyone wins.
Maine is lucky to have a one-man policy think tank in Matt.
Realistically, I think that "a large influx of full-time and part-time remote workers is good for the state and we welcome it" would be a hard attitude for many Mainers (and people of other regions) to adopt.
What this means for them specifically is that "a bunch of people who are probably either younger than me, richer than me, or both, are going to come to my state and use their influence to change it to fit their preferences rather than mine."
Most people don't like change unless they find their personal circumstances intolerable. They especially don't like change in the place they think of as their ancestral homeland because that impairs their connection to their own past.
People who advocate for big social changes need to do a better job of combating nostalgia. Too often, though, they foster and rely upon nostalgia as an argument for why the CURRENT state of affairs is unacceptable. It's a weird kind of progressive conservatism, and it tends to breed NIMBYism.
I'm a Mainer, although I don't live there anymore, and I basically think this is right on all points. Two little quibbles:
1. I wish you had talked more about immigration and refugees, which have been significant in parts of Maine, particularly Lewiston where I'm from but also Portland.
2. One issue with transmission lines specifically is that the scenic mountains extend all the way across the state, so anything coming from Quebec has to go through nice places at some point. This has been an issue in New Hampshire as well.
Just a reminder for remote workers - if you're working remotely in a state with an income tax you need to pay taxes in that state. Even if you're only there for a week. I expect states to crack down on this. You don't want to get a letter in 2 years from state X saying you owe $x,000 plus interest and penalties.
Glad to see the land value tax, one of my pet policy ideas, get some love. There's definitely room in the takes market for more Georgist writers.
I've heard that the tax situation for people living in one state but working for a company located in a different state can be hell. This is really something that needs to be addressed, but I'm not quite sure how.
Multifamily real estate investor here. Wednesday night I did a webinar for our passive investors about how the remote work trend offers great opportunities for flyover country. As part of it I linked to a site that tracks places that will pay you to move there.
From an economic development perspective, it's a much more efficient approach. Instead of focusing on tax incentives to get companies to move, just spend money on people.