Initiatives to create good jobs and strong wages will be among the top priorities for Democratic lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session.

State Democratic leaders on Tuesday said a number of lawmakers’ bills will be focused on job training, workforce development, college affordability and keeping and creating good jobs so young Mainers can stay or return home to pursue their careers.

They also announced a jobs tour that will hit every region of the state, from Aroostook to Washington to York, and provide a forum for lawmakers to meet with workers, businesses and community leaders to look for public-private partnerships to grow good jobs.

“Democrats stand united behind an economic agenda that we believe will grow more jobs and stronger wages in our state — an agenda that will put Maine jobs and Maine workers first,” said House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick, “Democrats, Republicans, and the Governor must work together to invest in our people, our businesses and our state.”

According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, New England has recovered 132 percent of jobs lost since the recession, the United States has recovered 123 percent since the recession, but Maine has only recovered 56 percent of the jobs lost. Maine faces a jobs gap.  If the state was keeping pace with the national recovery, there would be 19,000 more jobs today.

Maine’s wages are 20 percent lower, on average, than wages across the U.S.–even those states with similar demographics like Vermont and New Hampshire have higher average wages.

“The next two years will be pivotal for our economy. Even though we’ve dug out of the recession, wages have remained stagnant and the cost of living has gone up,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland. “We have to ensure the next generation can get a better shot at the American Dream. We need to give young Mainers a reason to stay here and others a reason to relocate here. We can’t simply leave it to chance that people will discover how great Maine is. We have to show them—and encourage them.”

Democratic and Republican lawmakers have submitted 1,700 bills for consideration during the 127th Legislature. Committees will begin reviewing bills in the coming weeks.

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