Maine’s children got scant attention in the governor’s annual State of the State speech Tuesday evening. The only time Gov. Paul LePage focused on children was to call for more accountability in the state’s schools, which he aims to achieve by eliminating state funding for school district administration.

There are many reasons the governor should be concerned about the state of Maine’s children.

Some of the numbers are truly dire. Maine is the only state in the country with a long-term rise in the infant mortality rate. A state panel charged with reviewing such deaths to look for patterns that can be corrected has been dormant for nearly three years. It was revived after a Bangor Daily News investigation and is set to meet next month.

The percentage of children living in deep poverty — family earnings of less than $10,000 a year — is growing faster in Maine than in any other state. From 2011 to 2015, the proportion of Maine children living in extreme poverty grew at eight times the national average, according to data from the Maine Center for Economic Policy. About 43,000 children in Maine are living in poverty, defined as a family income of about $20,000 or less for a family of three.

Yet, of the 20,000 children in deep poverty in 2015, fewer than 7,000 received benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

LePage has bragged about reducing TANF caseloads. He did so again during Tuesday’s speech. The problem is that the need for this assistance hasn’t gone away. Instead the state has simply tightened rules for ideological reasons.

A five-year lifetime limit on such assistance that took effect in 2012 is mostly responsible for the drop. Since that limit took effect, Maine’s TANF caseload has been cut by more than half.

The administration temporarily diverted TANF funds meant for families with children to elderly services. It reversed this diversion after the BDN reported on it and the federal government began asking questions about the transfer.

The number of Maine public school students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches has risen even as the student population overall has shrunk. And Maine has continued to lead New England in the percentage of children who live in food-insecure households. Again, the picture of food insecurity has worsened in Maine as it’s slightly improved nationally, according to the annual Kids Count survey.

The percentage of children without health insurance has risen in Maine while it has dropped nationally. From 2012 to 2014, the rate of uninsured children in Maine rose from 4.6 percent to 6.3 percent. This means that about 16,300 children in Maine are not covered and likely going without needed health care.

The LePage administration has significantly cut back eligibility for Medicaid and proposes, in its current budget plan, to further tighten the criteria to only 40 percent of the federal poverty level for parents. (That’s an income of about $8,000 for a family of three.) Although children are still eligible for coverage, many parents who lose their eligibility fear that their children are no longer eligible as well. When coverage is available to parents, their children are also more likely to be covered.

A simple way to reduce poverty is to raise wages. Voters approved a minimum wage increase in November, but the governor wants to gut it. The wage increases will benefit about a third of the state’s workforce. Ninety percent of the workers who will benefit are over the age of 20, and a quarter are working parents, according to analysis by the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

Higher earnings benefit children in many ways. Research has shown that a $1,000 rise in income raises children’s test scores. As a result, these children become more likely to attend college and earn more themselves. Low-income children whose parents get a raise are also less likely to become teen parents, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found.

If lawmakers want to set Maine on a course to prosperity, investing in and supporting Maine children must be a priority as they make spending decisions for the next two years.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...