AUGUSTA – Gov. John Baldacci has promised to call a special legislative session this year to reform taxes, hopefully in September, tax reform advocates said.

But before he does, both political parties have work to do, Baldacci said Thursday.

“I committed to call a special session on tax reform, but I also reminded people they need to develop a consensus.” Baldacci said he would only call a session when legislators “are able to act.”

As proposed by the legislative Taxation Committee, some taxes would go up and others would go down, with the idea that the majority of Mainers would pay less.

Some goods and services now not taxed – movie tickets, junk food, health and fitness club fees – would be subject to Maine’s 5 percent sales tax. Taxes for nonessential things, such as restaurant meals, beer and wine, would also go up. Personal income taxes would go down.

Changing Maine taxes is important, Baldacci said. Maine’s personal income taxes need to be lowered, he said. Homeowners need to get the property tax relief they were promised last year. Some towns and cities are lowering property taxes, Baldacci said, but others are not. “The reports I’ve seen have been mixed. … I want to see it more uniform,” so that relief goes directly to homeowners.

Exactly when a special tax reform session will be held is not known.

It won’t be the July 29 special session when legislators meet to vote on bonds, said House Majority Leader Rep. Glenn Cummings, D-Portland.

Some legislators set a goal in June to go home, educate voters and build public support for tax reform, then vote on it on Veto Day. That hasn’t happened.

“Honestly I don’t know why,” said Rep. Richard Woodbury, an independent from Yarmouth and co-chairman of the Taxation Committee that came up with the proposal.

This year Veto Day never happened because there was nothing to veto, said House Majority spokeswoman Kaylene Waindle.

Getting $83 million of bonds on November’s ballot has been the Legislature’s top priority, leaving less time for tax reform, Cummings said. A few legislators have made independent efforts to explain the proposed tax changes to constituents, Cummings said. And legislative staffers have given hand-outs to legislators offering highlights.

Some legislators, including Rep. Nancy Smith, D-Monmouth, said a tax reform vote should not be taken up until next year, allowing time for the public to understand the proposed changes. Others, including Cummings, said if it’s going to happen, it needs to be this year, since next year is an election year, when lawmakers tend to be less bold, he said.

Kathleen McGee of the Maine Citizen Leadership Fund said a vote “cannot wait until next year. Next year works only for the Red Sox. People are tired of waiting for there to be courage.”


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