Question 2: Cut is worse than the tax

We dislike Maine's automobile excise tax.

Paying an annual chunk of money for owning a car grates against our more Libertarian sensibilities. That the tax is based on a vehicle's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price also adds insult to agony, since MSRP is a fairy tale figure. Nobody pays it.

Yet even though the excise tax provokes this visceral reaction, we do not favor Question 2, which asks Maine voters to chop it in half, and create tax incentives to purchase "green" vehicles. We might be ornery, but we're not myopic.

Cutting the excise tax like this would be worse than leaving it intact.

Here's why: A tax shift will happen. It's unavoidable. Cutting the excise tax will be felt on property taxes, as municipal governments have few places to raise revenue. The money must come from somewhere; that somewhere will be owners of homes and commercial property.

Halving the excise tax does nothing to reform its underlying unfairness. What's needed is a sensible tax, not just a lower bad one. For lawmakers, the automobile excise tax is overdue for attention from the same wise minds behind this session's laudable tax-reform bill.

The chief flaw with Maine's tax is its basis, the MSRP.
Massachusetts, for example, bases its excise tax on the value of vehicles, a much fairer assessment. Oklahoma bases its excise tax on a new vehicle's sale price or a used vehicle's value, which are both realistic.

Setting Maine excise tax to vehicle value or sale price could accomplish several goals: make the tax more defensible, reduce its cost to taxpayers and weaken any disincentive to new automobile sales the current excise tax may create. Let's try doing this first, before considering ideas like Question 2, which is a blatant anti-tax initiative clad in an ill-fitting green suit.

While the plan it espouses certainly fulfills some agendas — particularly those of the organization trumpeting it, Maine Leads — the initiative as a whole makes little sense for voters and taxpayers. The vast majority of Maine vehicle owners pay minimum excise taxes (72 percent in Lewiston, for example) so the prospective cuts are minimal and will be more than likely offset by increases to property taxes. 

Yes, of course: We dislike the excise tax, and cutting it in half would feel good.

But it's not the smart thing to do. That's why we say vote No on Question 2.

editorialboard@sunjournal.com

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Comments

JONATHAN ALBRECHT's picture

No you didn't Robert61

No you didn't Robert61 because you want to deceive people. Make what changes in how they do business? Do you have any suggestions. Of course not. These mythical changes don't exist because most towns at least those with town halls run on a shoe string now. They have cut everything there is to cut. You just don't want to meet your responsibilities.
or pay your fair share of taxes.
Question is a dumb proposal which benefits the rich and well-to-do while putting at risk the safety of the poor and middle class.

Vote NO on 2

Jon Albrecht Dixfield

 's picture

How about we rethink the

How about we rethink the whole money spending issue? Change spending habits. Everybody complains about the environment and when there is suddenly an incentive to be able to afford a newer car, people discourage it. It is very expensive to insure and register a new car versa old so that’s why we see a lot of clunkers still on the road. Cutting that money off for the towns, cities etc. would mean that they need to find alternatives without holding out hands for tax dollars. In this society everyone wants a free ride instead of figuring out how to get the results with what we have. I have to do this on my own since years, most middleclass working people have to, because they are working, paying those taxes which are wasted so often in my opinion and don’t get a free handout to help paying their bills. Maybe our government should ask working families with children how they manage to stay on a fixed income without making new debts or asking for more free money.

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

I think it is time for Maine

I think it is time for Maine to enter today's world. Other States do not even have an excise tax. Wonder why you see so many Florida plates in Maine? Could it be that Florida only charges something like $35.00 to register a car total for a year? And oh yes, no vehicle inspections at another $12 or so plus the inconvenience; and what do most inspection stations check? Maine has to do away completely with excise taxes on all vehicles, boats etc., do away with its income tax, and add a few percentage points to its sales tax giving the State 6%, the county a few cents, and the Cities a small amount. This could really be revenue neutral, would have visitors pay their fair share, and would probably help folks decide to remain Maine residents when they move South for the winter thus Maine would benefit in having more population when Federal grants are passed out. Maybe Florida resident Mr. Ken Curtis could address the Legislature on this.

 's picture

I see one big flaw with your

I see one big flaw with your sales tax redistribution plan. Many small towns have very little or no retail sales to collect tax from. What happens to a town like Weld which only has one small convenience store and no grocery or hardware store. The town of Weld would get almost nothing back from your sales tax plan because the people who live there do there shopping in Farmington or Phillips. Your plan would really subsidize the tax revenues for cities like Auburn with its many new car dealerships. People from surounding towns make some major purchases there and pay some hefty taxes on those new car purchases.

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