Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Make it easier to come to, and stay in, Maine 

Portland Press Herald editorial writer Nikki Kallio laments the immense hassle she went through as a newcomer trying to register her car in Maine:

On Saturday, the governor hosted a great event at the University of Maine that gathered young adults from around the state to brainstorm ideas on how to get more of them to move here.

Here's one of my own suggestions: Don't require nine documents to get new license plates.

That's right - nine. I exaggerate not.

Never mind the fact that any car owner who moves here has to go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get a driver's license, then go to city hall and pay an excise tax, then go back to the BMV for new license plates. A hassle? Yes. But, for the sake of this column, we're just going to focus on the last part.
I faced a similar ordeal not too long ago after I got off active duty. I had registered my car in two other states prior to returning to Maine, and Maine's process was far and away the most difficult and time consuming. In Florida and California, it took me all of maybe 10 minutes (at one location!) to accomplish what ended up taking half a day in Maine. Getting a license was easier, although in contrast with the other states where you walk out of the DMV with a license in your hand, in Maine it was mailed to me two weeks later.

The hassles don't stop there, though. Before I had my Maine license, I experienced a lot of trouble trying to buy beer. Never mind that I'm nearly 30, and Maine law states that merchants must check the ID of anyone who looks younger than 27. Okay, I have a young face. Whatever. It happened while trying to buy lottery tickets once too, and I certainly don't look younger than 18. Again, whatever. The problem was that cashiers would simply not accept my Florida license and had to call a manager from elsewhere in the store to authorize the purchase. Never mind that Florida's license has several anti-counterfeit measures beyond what Maine's has. The only way to easily make a purchase with identification is to have a Maine driver's license. After this happened a couple of times, I brought along my passport and military identification card for good measure. I was told that they don't accept those, either. Period.

Now, one of them gets me across international borders and the other gets me into restricted military facilities. But they couldn't get me a 6-pack of beer in Maine. I was actually told by one cashier that they have been instructed that military IDs are easy to fake. Oh, really? I suppose everyone has stocks of bar-coded, magnetic-stripped, hologram-covered and computer-chipped cards sitting around, ready to churn out military IDs. But whatever... I couldn't help but wonder, on one hot summer day, what sort of gyrations Maine's nine million visitors per year go through when they just want a cold beer.

And don't even get me started on the taxes. Those are a barrier to employers, a barrier to people moving to Maine, and a barrier to Maine's young, educated people who want to stay.

It doesn't need to be this hard...
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