Secrecy offers the ‘gift’ of accusations

Maine State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin is having a Mitt Romney moment.

Under fire for placing 10 acres of his 12.3-acre Georgetown property in so-called tree growth, Mr. Poliquin has been reluctant to answer the accusation that — perhaps — he doesn’t qualify for the property-tax break.

The Forest Management and Harvest Plan filed in his hometown is confidential and, in the absence of any explanation, assumptions — true or false — have bloomed.

It’s no wonder. The tax break Poliquin receives under the management plan totals $5,000 a year. Over time, that’s a lot of money.

GOP presidential candidate Romney knows all about the heat of assumptions.

Romney opponents called for him to release his personal tax returns. He refused and, during a January CNN debate, was booed for doing so.

His explanation in withholding the returns was simple, he said. “I want to beat Barack Obama. I don’t want to give the Democrats a nice little present” by releasing personal financials early and again after April 15.

Refusing to release the returns appears to have been gift enough: Opponents battered him for weeks for his “secrecy.” Romney eventually relented and, while eyeballs may have popped at the revelation of such staggering wealth, the criticisms of his obstinacy and secrecy abated.

Poliquin has the same opportunity to end public speculation by making his tree growth plan public.

Democrats called on him to do so Thursday, and resisting that request will only enable continued — and perhaps more heated — criticism. Guaranteed.

The Poliquin situation first came to light in 2009 when the Maine Forest Service issued a report identifying the acreage he placed in tree growth as an example of potential misuse of Maine’s Tree Growth Tax Law. In that report, the Maine Municipal Association also pointed to Poliquin’s tax break as a possible problem, to which it was alerted after asking members/assessors to identify properties that might be abusing tree growth.

And, by “abusing tree growth,” we mean dodging taxes.

Lawmakers are considering forming a study group this year to evaluate tree growth, including its possible abuses and potential enforcement, but we question whether further study is really necessary.

The 2009 Maine Forest Service report is not that old, and amazingly enough, the sitting Legislature at that time never reviewed the document. So, rather than launch a whole ’nother study effort, doesn’t it make more sense to first look at an existing study that hasn’t even been cracked open?

We think so, and salute MMA Director of State & Federal Relations Geoff Herman for distributing the report to current lawmakers so they can see the work that’s already — and recently — been done.

Really, how many more times can lawmakers take delivery of a study that points out a potential issue that would mean thousands of dollars to Maine’s municipalities and let it sit on the shelf?

MMA members have been clear that inappropriate placement of property in tree growth for the tax break is a statewide problem, especially along the coast. Our towns are losing revenue as landowners shield forestland they never intend to harvest, and there’s really no enforcement to hold them accountable.

That’s a burden Maine’s law-abiding taxpayers definitely don’t deserve.

We have one more suggestion: Define harvest management plans as public records, forcing them into the light of public scrutiny.

These management plans are now considered proprietary and, therefore, confidential, which means it’s impossible for anyone to ensure these plans are being followed.

Tax breaks received under Maine’s Tree Growth Tax Law should be public, much like TIFs and other tax breaks given out by the state and other governmental agencies.

Anything less is an invitation to fraud, which punishes everyone who is dutifully paying their fair share of taxes.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Comments

Janet Jamison's picture

Either party...

If any representative, OF EITHER PARTY,is found guilty of doing something less than honorable or ethical, or heaven forbid, illegal, they should be tossed out and surely not defended by their party members...This isn't a game. As citizens we should expect exemplary behavior; we should not be continually defending lipstick smeared porcine faces of "OUR TEAM" members...

Steve  Dosh's picture

Janet , 12.02.06 10:30 pm

Janet , 12.02.06 10:30 pm in Hawai'i
. .Yes. .yet , it's not even got to do with a particular party or political persuation , per sé
- All - Government officials and appointess must not even smell of inappropriate or illegal activity \ immoral behavior . i submit to you the following
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Thomas
^^ He is a sitting Chief Justice of our U S Supremem Court now . ^^
" . . ...Thomas was nominated by Bush to fill Marshall's seat on the United States Supreme Court. Thomas's confirmation hearings were bitter and intensely fought, centering on an accusation that he had made unwelcome sexual comments to attorney Anita Hill, a subordinate at the Department of Education and subsequently at the EEOC. The U.S. Senate ultimately confirmed Thomas by a vote of 52–48. " C st la vie , h t h , Steve :)

MARK GRAVE's picture

This is just another example

This is just another example where a complicated tax system creates nooks and crannies; that is, the grey stuff around the edges that some see as opportunity. This is also an illustration how legislative good intent runs awry.

The moral of this story is there is value in keeping laws few and simple. If Mr. Poliquin is meeting the letter of the law, perhaps not the intent of the law, it is not his problem. Fault should lie with the legislators for creating too much law with lots of grey stuff around the edges.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Secrecy offers the ‘gift’ of accusations

Ms. Meyer 12.02.03 Super Bowl weekend
Go Pats ;)
Good investigative journalism
Look up the meaning of gift from German --> English using Google ® translator
In a nutshell it means ' poison '
h t h ? /s, Steve

MARK GRAVE's picture

Have you stopped licking that

Have you stopped licking that frog yet?

Steve  Dosh's picture

l o l , Mark , Monday , Jesus

l o l , Mark , Monday , Jesus hates the Patriots :)
Q : You know where you find a frog with no legs ?
A : Right where you left him ? 
/s. Steve :)

MARK GRAVE's picture

Q: What do you call a frog

Q: What do you call a frog with no legs in a pond?

A: Bob

Have a good day!

MICHAEL LEBLANC's picture

Oy!

More babbling, in or out of a nutshell. It's a shame the damage pineapple poisoning - gifting? - can cause.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Secrecy is also not a crime,

Secrecy is also not a crime, not proof of guilt, nor an admission of guilt.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Paul , †rue . One can almost

Paul ,
†rue . One can almost always plead the 5th Amendment to the U . S . Constitution in order to not perjure oneself ?
Take O.J. Simpson and Johnny Cochran for instance . Silence is golden •
Ignor-ance is not bliss though h t h , /s Steve

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Now why can't the Maine

Now why can't the Maine Heritage Policy Center start an investigation into Poliquin? Oh wait, I forgot, he is a Republican and therefore is immune to their reports.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Probably for the same reason

Probably for the same reason Charlie Rangle isn't in jail yet.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Our state Treasurer wouldn't defraud the state

now would he. He wouldn't directly and intentionally violate the Maine Constitution. Our government would not intimidate the state legislature that his controlled by his party. No can't belief that Republicans would behave so badly.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Jonathan 10:40 pm hst

Jonathan 10:40 pm hst • Monday
" I am not a crook , " Richard Nixon ? 1 9 7 4 , also see : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiro_Agnew both Republicans " During his fifth year as Vice President, in the late summer of 1973, Agnew was under investigation by the United States Attorney's office in Baltimore, Maryland, on charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy. In October, he was formally charged with having accepted bribes totaling more than $100,000, while holding office as Baltimore County Executive, Governor of Maryland, and Vice President of the United States. "
Learn to trust Republicans about as far as you can t h r o w them :) h t h , /s, Steve :)

MARK GRAVE's picture

I doubt very much that party

I doubt very much that party affiliation has anything to do with your moral fiber or whether you’ll have a higher propensity for criminal behavior. It has more to do with politics in general – poli (meaning many) tics (meaning blood sucking parasites).

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The parrot, an avowed

The parrot, an avowed liberal, sez he doesn't think you're being really serious.

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