DEMOCRATS SAY GLOSSY REPORT WON’T CREATE JOBS OR HELP MIDDLE CLASS
October 9, 2012
AUGUSTA—Maine Democratic leaders released a statement in response to claims made by Maine GOP lawmakers at a press conference today. Many of the claims made by the GOP were contrary to independent findings and analysis of the impact their policies have had on Maine’s economy and people.
“For two years Republicans have been running Augusta, now they’re running from their record. The fact is that their policies and priorities have made it harder to live, work, and invest in Maine,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland. “Political theater won’t change the fact that too many Mainers are still out of work and that while the rest of the country has figured out ways to emerge from the recession, Maine’s economy has shrunk. Are we moving forward or backwards under the leadership of the Republican Party?”
During the thirty minute press conference, no mention was made of how many jobs were created under Republican control. In 2011 alone, Maine lost 1,300 jobs and 53,000 Maine people remain out of work.
“While Democrats are out meeting with Maine people, we hear over and over again about how Republican policies have hurt middle class families and small businesses,” said Rep. Emily Cain, the House Democratic leader, D-Orono. “No number of press conferences or glossy reports from the GOP will change the impact Maine people are feeling. Their health care costs are going up, their property taxes are going up, and more and more people are working harder and harder for less and less.”
The Real Impact of GOP policies passed during the 125th Legislature
Republicans promised to create jobs but haven’t delivered
GOP legislation undercut health care for Maine families and allowed insurers to hike rates
- Maine was among only a handful of states where the economy actually slid backwards last year. The US Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that Maine was the only state in New England whose economy shrunk in 2011 and one of only seven states nationwide.
- Maine’s economy shrank by .04 percent, while the national economy grew by 1.5 percent. New England grew by 1.8 percent. All five of the worst-performing states across the country in 2011 - including Maine - had state governments controlled by Republican governors.
- We lost 1,300 jobs in 2011, according to the Maine Center of Economic Policy and the Department of Labor.
- Maine has more than 50,000 people still looking for jobs, according to the Department of Labor.
- Maine was rated dead last (50) in the country for personal income growth, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.
- Eliminated and reduced health care for tens of thousands of Maine seniors, children, and people with disabilities in a partisan budget law (LD 1746)
- Made it easier for insurance companies to increase health insurance rates up to 10 percent without prior approval and shifted the cost of health care to property tax payers, seniors, and private insurance holders (LD 1333, PL 90).
- Allowed insurers to charge older Mainers five times (or 500 percent more) than younger Mainers (LD 1333, PL 90).
- As a result of the law, the independent consumer advocacy organization, Consumers for Affordable Health Care reports that according to the Maine Bureau of Insurance statistics:
- 54 percent of individual policyholders now have higher premiums.
- 91 percent of those ages 55-50 saw premium increases; 100 percent of those age 60+ saw increases.
- 90 percent of small business policyholders, especially those in rural areas, saw rate increases.
- The law imposes a total tax of at least $22 million on all insurance holders. The tax helps pay for a reinsurance pool for older and sicker Maine people who are considered higher risk. The tax on a family of four per year is estimated to be between $400-$600.
Expert Independent (Third Party) Opinion on GOP Tax Cuts
- Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, an independent, nonpartisan watchdog organization, highlights how the insurance industry bought and paid for the new law that stripped consumer protections and allowed them to increase rates. More than 1 million dollars was spent on campaign contributions to candidates and political action committees by those in health insurance and health care. Republicans received 84 percent of the contributions in 2010 and 2011 from Maine's largest health insurance company.
The Republican tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich hurt middle class families, schools and communities
- Passed tax cuts (LD 1043) that primarily benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. GOP tax cuts eliminated the state alternative minimum tax on individuals, lowered the top income tax rate in 2013 from 8.5 percent to 7.95 percent, doubled the estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million, and cut property tax relief to more than 75,000 low and middle income Maine families by 20 percent, as much as $400.
- According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, if you are a middle class family in Maine, you can expect to get back around $100 in income tax cuts, but if you make more than $350,000, you can expect to get back $2,800.
- State cuts to revenue sharing have resulted in higher property taxes. The Independent mayor of Waterville, Karen Heck, talks about how Maine towns have been forced to weigh property tax increases as they put their budgets together.
GOP policies undercut public schools
- The Legislature’s tax cuts “increased property taxes directly by $22 million in 2011 and 2012 by reducing the property tax circuit breaker program by 20 percent. The circuit breaker program provides nearly 200,000 Maine residents with a partial refund of property taxes assessed or rent paid by families with incomes up to $86,600. In addition, property taxes will increase significantly in 2012 for the vast majority of Mainers because the Legislature did not fully fund local education,” according to independent tax expert and corporate CPA Al DiMillo, Jr. (BDN, Sept. 19, 2012). (NOTE DiMillo worked with the GOP to defeat the tax reform bill in 2010).
- “While there were some tax changes that will lower the income taxes for low- and middle-income taxpayers, the lowering of the top income tax rate will impact only the top 30 percent of Mainers, with a disproportional amount going to the top 1 percent. The wealthy also benefit from a large estate tax reduction that will impact a small group of millionaires. The claim that the estate tax changes would help preserve farmland is very weak. The IRS reported that in 2009 only 3.25 percent of taxable estate assets were farm assets. In addition, Maine law already has provisions to help spread out estate tax liabilities over several years for family-owned small businesses, including farms,” according to independent tax expert and corporate CPA Al DiMillo, Jr. (BDN, Sept. 19, 2012).
- “It is folly to believe that tax-cutting myths that have not worked at the federal level of government will somehow work in Maine. They haven't. State unemployment is where it was a year ago, 7.6 percent -- significantly higher than unemployment in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. In short, LePage's tax cuts have not stimulated Maine's economy; there is no job growth,” according to Orlando E. Delogu is emeritus professor of law at the University of Maine School of Law.
GOP policies attacked workers and struggling middle class families
- The state made a promise to fund education at 55 percent – and we are not even close. Instead, the GOP is funding our local public schools at 46 percent or the same level as 2006, while pushing laws to siphon even more taxpayer dollars away from public schools. Republican lawmakers pushed laws that siphoned taxpayer dollars from public schools to private religious schools, virtual and charter schools. A Portland Press Herald news investigation shows that those new laws were influenced by out of state corporate campaign donors that would stand to profit from running virtual schools in Maine.
- The GOP budget shortchanges schools by more than $150 million dollars per year.
- The Republicans have cut millions in critical investments dollars for HeadStart.
- Stripped the collective bargaining rights of some child care workers (LD 1894) and agriculture workers at DeCoster egg farm (LD 1207).
- Reduced benefits to severely injured workers hurt on the job (LD 1913)
- Curbed earned-vacation pay benefits for workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own (LD 1725).
- Republicans blocked legislation that would prevent unscrupulous lenders from foreclosing on Maine homes without proof (LD 145 – Sustained Veto).