AUGUSTA – Republicans plan to hold a “Tax Freedom Day” rally today to call for lower taxes and to observe that April 23 marked the day this year that Mainers stopped working for the government and began working for themselves.

In other words, as of Saturday they’d worked enough days this year to cover their local, state and federal taxes, according to the state GOP.

The national average of the “tax freedom” date for states this year is April 17, according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based group that works for lower taxes. According to foundation, Maine has the country’s sixth-latest tax freedom, followed by five other high-tax states: Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Wyoming. Low-tax Alaska reaches Tax Freedom Day faster than any other state, April 2. Other low-tax states are Alabama, Tennessee, South Dakota and Mississippi.

According to the foundation’s rankings, Maine has the highest state and local tax burden in the country. Mainers give 13 percent of their income to pay for state and local taxes, compared New Hampshire, where workers give 7.4 percent, and Vermont, 11.1 percent.

Republicans plan to use today’s rally “to send a clear message to Gov. John Baldacci and the majority Democrats that Maine is tired of the heavy tax burden,” the party said in a prepared statement.

While some Democrats in the Legislature favor raising the sales tax, Baldacci has held firm that he will not allow taxes to go up, saying they are already too high. Property tax relief, which passed earlier this session, will provide tax relief and knock Maine out of the running for the highest taxed state, Baldacci has said.

Meanwhile Democrat Rep. Sean Faircloth, D-Bangor, who said he agrees that Maine’s income taxes are too high, is sponsoring legislation to cut income taxes. But he would do so by raising other taxes on what he called “frills,” such as soda and beer.

Maine’s highest income tax rate kicks in when a single person earns $18,000 a year, Faircloth said, calling that “an outrageous imposition on working people. The highest marginal rate should not hit working-income people.” Faircloth said he wants to cut taxes on two-income families that earn $80,000 or less, and single people earning $43,000 or less.

To pay for those tax cuts, Faircloth’s L.D. 705 would raise taxes on soda, cigarettes, alcohol, restaurant meals and hotel rooms.

“I enjoy soda and beer,” Faircloth said. “I’m eager to raise a glass that cuts taxes for working people. Your income is an important necessity. Frills are an option.”

Specifics of Faircloth’s proposal, scheduled for a public hearing next week on May 3, include raising the tax on alcohol sold by the glass from 7 to 10 percent; increasing cigarette tax from $1 to $1.50 cents a pack; and increasing meals and lodging tax from 7 to 10 percent during the high tourism season of May through October.

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