AUGUSTA — Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to ask voters if they want to cut taxes and government spending got a cool response from Democrats on a legislative panel that began eyeing the bill Wednesday.

LePage wants the state to hold a referendum in June asking voters if they want to lower income tax rates, implement alternative taxes and reduce overall tax revenues and government spending by at least $100 million to “make Maine more economically competitive and improve the job creation environment.”

Johnathon Nass, the governor’s senior policy adviser, told the Taxation Committee that the state’s current tax system is out of date and is putting Maine at a competitive disadvantage to other states.

“A modernization of the tax base, a lowering of the income tax rates and elimination of the estate tax will align Maine’s state tax system with the 21st century economy, making the state more competitive, creating jobs, spurring long-term economic growth … and provide a simple, more stable revenue base to meet the state’s spending requirements,” he said.

But Democrats on the committee said voters have already rejected similar proposals and questioned what services and programs the state would have to cut to implement such a tax reduction. The governor’s call for a referendum would need approval from the Democrat-majority Legislature before the question could be put to a popular vote.

The measure also faces opposition from the Maine Municipal Association.

“For the last three years, we’ve seen two different parties control the Legislature and there wasn’t $100 million laying around … that we identified that this is OK to cut completely,” said Rep. Ryan Tipping-Spitz, a Democrat from Orono. “This could be textbooks for your children or this could be health care for someone who needs it.”

But Republican Sen. Douglas Thomas, who’s sponsoring the bill, said Democrats are using the same “scare tactics” always used whenever spending cuts are suggested.

“I can assure you that if we cut $100 million out of a $6 billion budget … the sky is not going to fall,” he said.

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