AUGUSTA — As the top party officials at the State House continued their ongoing negotiations on a two-year budget for Maine, Republican Gov. Paul LePage on Friday renewed his push to do away with the state’s estate tax.

LePage and his conservative allies call the tax paid on inheritances valued at over $2 million a “death tax.”

LePage eliminated the tax in his budget proposal, but a bipartisan budget deal now on the table would increase the exemption on the tax to $5.5 million, aligning Maine’s estate tax with the federal government’s.

In a news release issued Friday morning, LePage said the tax contributes only 1.3 percent of the state’s total revenue, enough money to fund government for four days.

“In order for Mainers to prosper, we must take on tax reform in a meaningful way,” LePage said in the prepared statement. “We do that by eliminating the burden of the death tax and reducing personal income tax.” 

Republicans who support LePage said the tax in Maine often hits owners of family farms who are “land rich and cash poor.” 

Advertisement

During a series of town hall-style meetings held earlier this year, LePage repeated a story of being contacted by former Maine residents who told him they would move home if the state repealed the tax.

“Pro-growth tax reform creates a stronger economic recovery, putting us in a better position to grow, with more investment, more jobs, higher wages and a better standard of living,” LePage said in his statement.

But Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, are leery of eliminating the tax, which brings in a variable amount of revenue to the state each year, depending on who dies.

Democrats argue that further cutting state revenue would put pressure on other parts of the budget, including funding for public education and services provided by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Jodi Quintero, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said Democrats are opposed to eliminating the tax.

“We oppose the estate tax cut because it helps only a few wealthy families compared with all of Maine,” Quintero said. “This is a Republican priority.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.