Flat 4% income tax for Maine gets OK: Democrat calls Republican plan ‘credit card politics’

AUGUSTA — Working toward the close of the 125th Legislature, Maine lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to a Republican-backed bill to gradually lower the state income tax rate to a flat 4 percent.

The legislative action in the early-morning hours came amid traditional speeches highlighting bipartisan successes and expressing farewells as lawmakers completed the business of their two-year session but left open the possibility of a return if Gov. Paul LePage vetoes legislation.

The tax cut, sent to LePage, would gradually lower income tax rates to a flat 4 percent from the current 8.5 percent, due to drop to 7.95 percent in January. In part, the cut is possible because of an income tax relief account in the state’s rainy day fund.

Minority Democrats argued against the bill, saying the account would not sufficiently cover the cost of a tax cut and the relief would leave the next Legislature with a whopping bill to pay.

“This isn’t a tax cut. It’s a tax shift, and it’s a sham,” Sen. Philip Bartlett II, D-Gorham, said during debate. “This is nothing more than credit card politics.”

Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney, R-Springvale, said it was the previous Democratic majorities who had left a budget shortfall of more than $1 billion when the GOP assumed control of the State House in 2011.

“We’re going to be lectured by the people who created a $1.3 billion structural gap? I don’t think so,” Courtney said. “This is not a shift. This is just a commitment the Legislature ought to be making.”

During the two-year session, lawmakers overhauled health insurance laws, cut state debts, passed highway safety laws including a texting-while-driving ban, reduced the social service rolls, took steps to curb domestic violence, and enacted regulatory changes.

“For the most part, we have done a good job,” said Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, who has reached his four-term limit in the Senate.

Stopping short of final adjournment Thursday, legislative leaders left open the possibility of calling back lawmakers to take up any vetoes. LePage signed the budget bill before leaving Wednesday for a Republican Governors’ Association meeting in North Carolina. It closes an $80 million shortfall in the state Health and Human Services Department budget and includes a number of cuts in Medicaid benefits to bring the program more in line with what the governor said the state can afford.

The governor has 10 business days including Saturdays to veto bills. LePage’s office did not know Thursday of any particular measures the governor plans to veto. Speculation in the State House was that bond issues in the nearly $96 million package approved Wednesday would be the most likely candidates.

Asked if any of the bonds faced likely vetoes, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said: “We’ll address that later.”

LePage is wary of adding more debt to the state’s obligations. The bond issues, which would go to voters in November, seek funding for transportation, state colleges and universities, research and development, clean water and conservation programs.

House Democratic Leader Emily Cain of Orono and House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, agreed that LePage’s actions will determine whether legislators return to the State House.

“There are a number of bills the governor is going to get for the first time. He’ll get to see them as soon as he gets back from his trip. So early next week we expect to have an indication of whether we’ll need to come back for a day,” Nutting said.

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Comments

Steve  Dosh's picture

Flat 4% income tax for Maine gets OK: Democrat call . . . ...

All ,flyday 10:30 am-ish ? HST • 
Right ? And Ron Paul for your n e x t Governor
You think there is a light at the end of the tunnel , too , Republicans ? There is . It's a train coming straight @ you http://www.nationaltrainday.com Alo'ha from Pahoa • /s, Steve and ohana ?
†hanks again Claire :)

tax cut..

I agree with cutting the income tax in this state. I think Governor Lepage is on the right track. Maybe now more people will stay here ...

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Putting money where?

All this talk about tax cuts putting money in the hands of working people is a joke. The Bush tax cuts have put a fortune in the hands of billionaires but looking at wages which have not gone up in over 10 years and looking at over 4 million jobs lost in the public and private sector you have to be nuts to call that prosperity for working people. Oh and when the rich have taken their tax cuts and their subsidies and their no-bid contracts and their bailouts and their government grants and tifs they turn around and put their money off-shore or give up their citizenship to avoid paying any taxes (real patriots there) or start a bunch of non funded wars and leave us with a deficit which they use as an excuse to cut services even more. They are not job creators nor are they patriots. They are corporate welfare leeches and they are selling us a pig in a poke. The promise of how we need to have the pain to have the prosperity is for those who were born yesterday.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I believe in one of your past

I believe in one of your past posts you indicated that you are a retired teacher. Did you carry all that anger into the classroom each day?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Minority democrats are

Minority democrats are complaining that there isn't enough money in the 'rainy day' fund to cover the cost of the tax cut. When the hell did democrats start worrying about stuff like that? When it comes to paying for their giveaway social programs, whether or not there's money to pay for it is never an issue. But, when the republicans come up with a plan that will put more money in the pockets of WORKING people, the democrat mantra becomes, "Whoa, how are we going to pay for that?" What a sorry bunch of hypocrites.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Another bad idea

The party of bad ideas has struck again. Spending the rainy day fund on a tax break?? Really ?? What if it rains again? God forbid Maine should be spared the same political dysfunction demonstrated in California and other TABOR states. The flat tax is a bad idea because taxes represent the part of your income that you contribute to make your community a functional thriving place to live. Since our incomes are not flat neither should our contribution be. Those with larger incomes benefit more from infrastructure and development so they should contribute more. If a family needs to spend 80% of their income on food, shelter, medecine and childcare it is stupid to think that their fair share should be the same as someone spending 2% of their income on the same. It is also incomprehensible to me that people think they can wall themselves off from those in their community who are poor, sick and elderly . Sooner or later their plight will reflect on you and people will judge you for your greed and lack of compassion.

MAINE WILL SOON GO THE WAY OF

MAINE WILL SOON GO THE WAY OF CALIFORNIA IF SOMETHING ISN'T DONE TO HALT THE SPENDING SPREE THE DEMOCRATS HAVE BEEN ON FOR THE LAST 35 YEARS..CALIFORNIANS ARE LEAVING THEIR BANKRUPT STATE IN DROVES!

Zack Lenhert's picture

... you don't have to yell.

... you don't have to yell. It kinda takes away from any argument you're trying to make.

Yelling..

LOL I hit the cap key by mistake I think..Sorry..these old fingers sometimes make a few mihaps..I'll try not to do it again...I never yelll..
I am actually a very quiet person..I just write a lot...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

To each according to his

To each according to his needs from each according to his means=Marxism.

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