LePage spoke first at a luncheon held by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative think tank, at the Cross Insurance Center. About 70 people attended, each paying between $45 and $55 for the right to hear the governor’s speech.

The governor’s sales pitch was roughly the same: LePage said his tax reform plan will improve Maine’s ability to woo young professionals, retirees and job creators by decreasing the income tax and eliminating the estate tax and the tax on military pensions.

LePage has said his budget, which would reduce the top income tax rate from 7.95 percent to 5.75 percent, is just a step toward eliminating Maine’s income tax completely. He has promised to propose a constitutional amendment to repeal the income tax.

On Wednesday, LePage said he had little faith the amendment would pass this year, but he seemed confident that even if he couldn’t win in the State House, he can win in the court of public opinion.

“I fully expect the Legislature will say no this year,” LePage said. “But next year is an election year. And I will spend the rest of my time as governor fighting the battle to eliminate the income tax and lowering energy costs, I promise you.”

LePage pledged to target any lawmaker who votes against his efforts.


“I will spend the rest of my days going after those people,” he said.

While LePage’s $6.57 billion two-year budget proposal contains big shake-ups in the state’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, controversial changes to state welfare programs and the elimination of state aid to municipalities, its centerpiece is a monumental shift in the state’s tax code.

To make up for the income tax cut, LePage would increase the state’s sales tax and broaden the base of goods and services on which it’s levied, a proposal that has irked several retail and service interests groups. He’d also force large nonprofits to pay property tax.

That tradeoff is meant to export a greater share of Maine’s tax burden to tourists and seasonal residents. He also has argued it’s more fair to tax consumption than income.

LePage said Wednesday that the moves are all designed to make Maine more competitive. The state’s high energy costs and high taxes, he said, have hurt the state’s economy and resulted in a demographic catastrophe.

“Your kids leave the state. Your retirees leave the state. Job creators go elsewhere, because they can get a better bang for their buck,” he said. “This budget is attempting to stem the loss of population. It’s an attempt to fuel economic growth.”

The governor has pointed to assessments by groups such as the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation, which recently ranked Maine 33rd in the nation for business climate. If LePage’s budget goes through unaltered — an unlikely scenario, given that Democrats control the House of Representatives — the Tax Foundation estimates Maine’s rank would rise to 23rd.

LePage has one more scheduled appearance in Bangor on Wednesday, at a 6 p.m. public forum at Husson University’s Gracie Theater.

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