Political reaction to Maine’s tax reform has become so odd, we’re starting to wonder if Rod Serling is writing the script.

There are Democrats mad at Democrats for passing the legislation, accusing it of masquerading as a Bush-style tax-cut wolf in progressive clothing. And Republicans — who should, theoretically, support such a policy — are mad because it is anti-business and anti-poor and they want it repealed whole-hog. (We’re also guilty, for complaining the income tax cut — from a top rate of 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent — wasn’t enough.)

It’s always a strange time in Maine’s political echo chamber, or Twilight Zone, where nothing seems to be what it appears to be. The only tonic for these confusing times is a little perspective, which has come forward from unexpected sources, who have put the state’s effort into praiseworthy perspective.

Who are these mysterious messengers, you may ask? None other than the Wall Street Journal and the Tax Foundation.

It’s odd enough to consider that the Journal, a bastion of conservative thought, would say anything nice about the Democratic-controlled Maine state government. And to be fair, the Journal did muck the details of the tax plan, including ski tickets as new taxable items and somehow including the state’s budget cutting — a necessity of revenue — as part of tax reform.

Yet the Journal — whose editorial writers enjoy skewering left-leaning behavior and anti-market policies — heaped nothing but praise on Maine. Of all American states, the Journal said, none did more to improve its economic attractiveness than Maine.


It’s no panacea. “These changes alone are hardly going to earn the Pine Tree State the reputation of ‘pro-business,'” the Journal said. But in comparison to income tax increases offered elsewhere to cope with budget difficulties, Maine’s ability to trim its rate in this recession was a “miracle.”

Then there’s the Tax Foundation, the former Public Enemy No. 1 of Maine lawmakers for its recurring rankings of the state’s crushing tax burden. It has no friends here, yet still found time to pat Maine on the back. “Ultimately, the reform effort is a positive step forward,” it said. What is going on? Is Ashton Kutcher behind this? Is Maine about to be Punk’d?

Probably not. What the Journal and Tax Foundation are speaking is pure common sense: This reform is a good policy that should improve Maine’s reputation, tax stability and tax burden, maybe not as much as touted, but some, nonetheless.

Now, some wise legislative observers are advising caution, saying there are devils in the details, and that tax reform’s success is not assured. The best policy, they say, is to wait and see. There’s nothing wrong with this advice, either, except that it doesn’t reverberate well in the echo chamber.

For that reason alone, it should be heeded.


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