House Democratic Office
April 19, 2013
REP BERRY: LEPAGE BUDGET PASSES THE BUCK, UNDERSCORES NEED FOR TAX FAIRNESS
A budget should reflect our values. Thatís why itís so hard to stomach the budget Gov. Paul LePage is proposing.
Maine needs a budget that helps grow our economy from the middle out and allows the middle class to prosper. The governor takes a top-down approach that hurts our elderly, our youth, our small businesses and our middle class. These are not the values of the Maine I know and grew up in.
Good morning, Iím House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham.
When the governor unveiled his two-year budget three months ago, he passed the buck to Maine communities and their local taxpayers. He tried to wash his hands of responsibility even as he handed Maine taxpayers a bill for four-hundred-and-twenty-five million dollars.
Democrats have been working ever since to prevent the governor from unloading the biggest tax shift in Maine history onto our stateís taxpayers.
A lot of bad ideas went into the governorís budget. He wants to cut the funds that communities need to keep their roads from crumbling. He cuts important property tax reduction measures, like the Circuit Breaker, that many Mainers rely on. Heís pushing new costs onto local school districts. He even decided to cut a program that helps elderly Mainers afford their prescription drugs.
Democrats on the Taxation Committee, along with an independent member, recently voted against another one of these bad ideas Ė one that accounts for more than half of the governorís total tax shift.
The governor wants to eliminate the longstanding revenue-sharing system with towns and cities, but these committee members refused to go along with it because it would mean a property tax hike for Maine residents. Republicans on the committee voted to keep this proposal in the budget, despite the consequences to property taxpayers.
When you count up all the elements in the governorís tax shift, it could mean a tax hike just shy of $650 for the typical Maine family. Thatís a lot of money, even if we werenít trying to shake off the effects of the recession.
To add insult to injury, weíre in this budget hole because of a tax break for the wealthy. In 2011, Governor LePage and the Republican-controlled Legislature pushed through this tax break largely benefitting the wealthy. They didnít have a plan for how Maine could afford this, only vague talk about how it would materialize later.
Unfortunately for all of us, that never happened.
To make up the difference, Maine communities would have to drastically cut important services like public works, public safety and education. Or they would have to raise property taxes on their residents and businesses. Most likely, it will be a combination of the two.
Property taxes hit the middle class the hardest. While the wealthy have investments that are taxed at lower rates Ė if theyíre taxed at all Ė the middle class invests primarily in their homes.
So far, more than 60 communities Ė representing nearly half of Maineís population -- have voiced their opposition to the governorís plan. They have passed resolutions calling for another way.
Governor LePage, meanwhile, is doing all kinds of things to distract from his irresponsible budget: from threatening a veto spree to holding hostage voter-approved bonds that should be jump-starting our economy.
Heís hoping Maine people donít remember that when he was mayor of Waterville not that long ago, that he railed against state budget measures for burdening property tax owners.
Democrats are working toward a better way. Instead of raising property taxes on the middle class to reduce taxes on the wealthy, Democrats are pursuing a fairer system.
Right now, our tax system makes a single mother making minimum wage pay a higher tax rate than a millionaire. One pays nearly 17 cents of each dollar she earns on state and local taxes. The other is not even paying ten cents on the dollar.
Itís time to close loopholes that make working and middle-class Mainers to pick up the tab. And itís time we made it loud and clear to our chief executive. Both morally and economically, Maine deserves tax and budget policies that ask everyone to do their fair share.
This is Representative Seth Berry of Bowdoinham.
Thank you for listening.