No one wants to get a bigger property tax bill while getting fewer services for their hard-earned money. No parent wants to see their kids’ classroom sizes grow while their school’s offerings shrink.

This is what I am my fellow Democrats keep in mind as we debate tax conformity at the State House. The Maine House of Representatives voted for a bill last week that addresses these concerns.

Democrats and Republicans are in total agreement that Maine should adopt all the changes in federal tax code for two years. It has great tax relief measures for the middle class and small businesses, and we want Mainers to be able to take advantage of them, whether we re talking about young families like mine, mom-and-pop operations, students or teachers.

For example, there is an enhanced child care tax credit, higher education deductions and the ability for homeowners to add mortgage insurance costs to their mortgage interest deductions. Teachers who use their own money to buy supplies for their classrooms get a break. And there are incentives that help small businesses such as ice cream parlors and flower shops and Mainers who make their livings as carpenters, plumbers, loggers and fishermen.

Full conformity also provides predictability to Mainers and Maine businesses, allowing them to file their tax returns promptly without complications.

So you may be asking yourself, “What is this debate about then?” It comes down to this: Democrats don’t want an unproven corporate giveaway that comes at the expense of Maine students and Maine taxpayers.


While the bill Gov. Paul LePage sent the Legislature fully mirrors the federal tax code, it has something else as well: a big business tax break that comes with a $23 million price tag — even though its economic benefits aren’t clear.

The Maine Capital Investment Credit is Maine’s version of bonus depreciation but on a faster timetable. Programs like these were created in the hopes of boosting the economy during the recession. But there are big unanswered questions about whether they work. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that businesses really don’t make their decisions based on these kinds of programs and that it is the biggest businesses that benefit.

Democrats don’t want to pour money into a big corporate tax break if it isn’t doing its job, especially when Maine has other pressing needs. It is the taxpayers’ money and we have a responsibility to use it in the wisest way.

Last week, the Maine House passed an amended bill that mirrors the federal code, keeps MCIC for the 2015 tax year but hits pause for the following year. That gives us time to really examine it and see if it is worth valuable taxpayer dollars.

Meanwhile, 133 Maine school districts just learned that their property taxpayers are going to have to foot a larger portion of their public education bills. Changes in state valuation affect the complex education funding formula, leading to a $23 million shortfall for these property taxpayers.

That is money that comes out of the pockets of families, grandparents on fixed incomes, renters and the small businesses that form the backbone of Maine’s economy.


Our amended bill provides $23 million for public education because we don’t want further cuts to classrooms and we don’t want to see property taxpayers hit with a spike in their bills.

The governor is threatening a veto. Again, he’s turning his back on property taxpayers. He has made repeated attempts to cut revenue sharing, which returns a small portion of tax revenue back to towns and cities, even though it would mean higher tax bills for residents, less money for schools or a squeeze on municipal services like police protection, snow plowing and firefighting.

We need our Republican colleagues to join us in supporting the amended bill. In the House, two have already shown the courage to break ranks and vote for this measure that protect classrooms and property taxpayers, as did two independent representatives. The measure hits the Senate next.

Lawmakers need public encouragement to stand up to the governor. The education of Maine’s children is important and we don’t want to see a tax hike because of an unproven corporate giveaway.

Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, is the Maine House majority leader.

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