LEWISTON — The Maine State Chamber of Commerce has changed its position on the tax reform referendum facing voters on June 8, recently voting “overwhelmingly” to support the new law in the upcoming repeal referendum.

The announcement was made by both the chamber and the political action committee supporting the No on 1 position, which would maintain the recently passed law to lower the income tax from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent.

The reduction would be mostly paid for by expanding the state’s 5 percent sales tax to a broader array of items than are currently taxed and increasing the meals and lodging tax from 7 percent to 8.5 percent.

During the legislative debate, the Maine State Chamber did not support the reform package. However, local chambers, including the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Portland Region Chamber of Commerce, did support the reform.

Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber, said the state chamber has always been supportive of efforts to lower Maine’s income tax rate, even during the legislative process.

“It was clearly my board’s intention that on an up or down vote they would be supportive, but we wanted to use the occasion to try to improve it and try to use the legislative process as we did,” Connors said in an interview. “I think that those inside the circle understood what the position was, but I put the board in that position of trying to say, ‘Let’s use this occasion to improve the bill.'”

Travis Kennedy, chief of staff for the Maine House Majority office, said Connors and the chamber never actively lobbied lawmakers to oppose the measure but did withhold formal support.

“They said they were not taking a position of support, but that was it,” he said.

Mainers can weigh in on the issue in a statewide referendum on June 8.

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