AUGUSTA (AP) – A special panel of lawmakers reviewing Gov. John Baldacci’s proposal to help property taxpayers discussed ways to curb government spending Wednesday, moving further into a thicket of detail that has swallowed policy explorers in the past.

Facing a mid-January deadline for making recommendations to the full Legislature, the Joint Select Committee on Property Tax Reform has agreed with the governor on doing without new taxes to pay for property tax relief, according to legislative leaders.

The committee also has come out against a reverse mortgage provision in the Baldacci plan that would let taxpayers meet a liability with a state loan, payable with interest when a home is sold or transferred.

As one way to ease the tax burden for some property owners, panelists have focused on the existing state circuitbreaker program, which provides property tax rebates for single-member households with incomes below $30,300 and $46,900 for multiple-member households. Baldacci seeks to raise those standards to $50,000 and $75,000.

Spending caps, additional school funding and incentives for regional cooperation have been identified by Rep. Richard Woodbury of Yarmouth, the political independent serving as House chairman of the 15-member select committee, as key objectives in the tax reform effort.

Votes to date are described as tentative.

As part of his tax relief plan, Baldacci is looking to hike state aid to local schools over the biennium by about $250 million. Estimates by the administration and the Maine Municipal Association suggest that implementing last June’s ballot question on school funding, calling for an immediate hike of the state’s share of local school costs to 55 percent, would cost about twice that.

Overall, Baldacci says he hopes to ensure that no Maine resident would pay more than 6 percent of income in property taxes.

Baldacci submits a two-year budget plan to the Legislature next week. To raise additional money for school aid, he may draw on $94 million in higher than anticipated state revenue.

Baldacci is also counting on some of that money to boost funding for the circuitbreaker program, originally established in 1972, which aids Maine residents whose property taxes exceed 4 percent of their household income.


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