It appears the political landscape is changing in Maine as we determine who the gubernatorial candidates will be for both Republican and Democratic parties. This could be a watershed moment for Maine and a change of the majority party. You will also be deciding primary races for the Legislature on who will represent your party for the Legislative races in November.
The sad part is that traditionally, only an average of 25-30% of registered voters show up at the polls for the primaries in Maine. In our last article about the declining participation in town meeting form of government, only approximately one-half of 1% of the voters decide the path of our town government budgets, taxes, ordinances and school budgets.
These primary races are very important, but you also have the power to steer the direction Augusta will take when the 125th convenes in Jan. 2011. Will Maine continue to be a spend- and-tax state or will you send the message that “business as usual” will not be tolerated any longer? Though anecdotal, if the mood of people I speak with everyday translates to the polls, we will change the people in the seats who reflect our points of view.
One way we can begin this process is to have a strong showing at polling places to ensure our voices are heard loud and clear. The ballot has a people's veto question along with four bond questions.
Question 1- “People’s Veto” Do you want to reject the new law that lowers Maine’s income tax and replaces that revenue by making changes to the sales tax?
The answer is: Yes. I participated in the formulation of this legislation during the 123rd Legislature while serving as the lead Republican on the tax committee. The selling point at the time was that the changes would result in a rebalancing of the taxes paid and it would be “revenue neutral.” My plan was simple; 1. I gave specific cuts of $10 million to pay for the income tax cut. 2. Any surplus would be placed in newly created savings accounts with the surplus being divided into these accounts. 3. A constitutional amendment requiring a super majority to raise or lower taxes by the legislature. It was that simple and doable.
What I witnessed the night of the committee vote compelled me to walk out of the committee. Maine Revenue Services informed the Taxation Committee of a projected surplus. The committee chair proceeded to bring out a “wish list” of earmarks from representatives on the committee and proceeded to grant their requests one-by-one in order to make the bill revenue neutral. My request was not even mentioned. The truth is, there is no intention to have the bill neutral, but it will increase revenue to the government.
This does lower the income tax to 6.5%, but will impose 102 new taxes to make up for the decrease in income tax revenue. Another fact: what the "no" crowd conveniently forgot to mention is that any family making over $40,000 in income will lose the mortgage deduction from its Maine tax return. In fact, we will lose most, if not all , deductions we currently claim on our federal return. Another argument for the "no" crowd is that we must "export” the cost onto the folks visiting our state by raising our meals and lodging taxes, car rentals, rental properties, etc.What they do not tell you is that more than 70% of Maine restaurant sales are to Maine people.
Typically Maine people have defined the term “stay-cation.” It has always amazed me how many people I have worked with or spoken to whop have never been out of Maine or only to destinations in the northeast. So much for exportability!
Do we need a reduction in income tax? Yes, but not this legislation. I urge you to vote yes on Question 1.
Question 2: Bond Issue
Do you favor a $26,500,000 bond issue that will create jobs through investment in an off-shore wind energy demonstration site and related manufacturing to advance Maine’s energy independence from imported foreign oil, that will leverage $24,500,000 in federal and other funds and for energy improvements at campuses of the University of Maine System, Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy in order to make facilities more efficient and less costly to operate?
Question 3: Bond Issue
Do you favor a $47,800,000 bond issue to create jobs in Maine through improvements to highways, railroads and marine facilities, including port and harbor structures, and specifying the allocation of $4,000,000 of the transportation bond approved by voters in November 2009 to be used for capital rail purposes?
Question 4: Bond Issue
Do you favor a $23,750,000 bond issue to provide capital investment to stimulate economic development and job creation by making investments under the Communities for Maine’s Future Program and in historic properties; providing funding for research and development investments awarded through a competitive process; providing funds for disbursements to qualifying small
businesses; and providing grants for food processing for fishing, agricultural, dairy and lumbering businesses within the State and redevelopment projects at the Brunswick Naval Air Station that will make the State eligible for over $39,000,000 in federal and other matching funds?
Question 5: Bond Issue
Do you favor a $10,250,000 bond issue to improve water quality, support drinking water programs and the construction of wastewater treatment facilities and to assist farmers in the development of environmentally sound water sources that will leverage $33,250,000 in federal and other funds?
If the bonds submitted here are approved by voters and issued for the full statutory period authorized, an estimate of the total interest and principal that may reasonably be expected to be paid is $135,104,250, representing $108,300,000 in principal and $26,804,250 in interest. David Lemoine, Treasurer of State
The question you need to ask is “can we afford more borrowing” or should we demand the legislature prioritize the spending to pay for these projects? If they were to prioritize spending, we would save $26,804,250 in interest on the borrowing. We already owe over $500,000,000 in bonds (borrowed money) to lending institutions. That is correct: half a billion dollars in borrowed money. The legislature is also addicted to federal money (again your tax money). These bonds will leverage federal money. Just think how twisted this is that we are going to borrow money to leverage the feds borrowing money to pay us to borrow money.
The legislature claims to have reduced spending this past session when in actuality they reduced their liability by reducing the revenue they send to the communities. The towns and cities are being strapped with increasing taxes or cutting spending. You are still paying higher costs through higher property taxes. Instead of coming out of your left pocket, it’s coming out of your right pocket -- same pair of pants though!
I urge you to vote no on all bond questions and send the message to Augusta that we are tired of business as usual.
That’s my opinion. I welcome yours!