A recent news article covered the Legislature’s decision this year to eliminate the “circuit-breaker” property tax relief program (Aug. 9).

The spokesperson for Republican lawmakers in the House defended the cuts to property tax relief programs enacted this session with several claims, including: “The only way we are going to see true property tax relief is to rein in local spending;” and “it is up to the local governments to get their spending under control;” and “the bottom line is the spending has got to stop and when we are talking about property taxes, that’s spending at the local level.”

While one corner of the State House insists on characterizing local spending as out of control, consider this:

K-12 public education consumes 56 percent of all local spending. The state’s contribution to school spending, which shortchanges required state appropriations by $180 million a biennium, significantly impacts local property taxes.

Setting aside the education burden, the Legislature has slashed municipal revenue sharing this biennium, cutting that property tax relief program by more than half ($160 million). Revenue-sharing was designed to help financially support a long list of services provided by the towns and cities, mandated by state or federal law that greatly benefit the entire state: election services, maintenance of state aid roads, solid waste disposal, drinking and wastewater management, fire suppression, emergency medical services, land use management, safety net welfare, etc.

The state and its local governments are financially joined at the hip. Recognizing the partnership would be helpful. Respecting it, even more so.

Geoff Herman, Augusta, director, state and federal relations, Maine Municipal Association

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