AUGUSTA — A coalition of groups is calling on Maine’s Legislature to eliminate some of the income tax cuts enacted under former Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

But Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and key lawmakers from both parties made it clear again Thursday that they won’t support income tax increases in the next state budget.

Dubbing itself “the Prosperity Coalition,” the group includes the Maine Center for Economic Policy, a state employee union, immigrant rights groups, clergy and advocates for several causes. It held a news conference at the State House on Thursday and called on lawmakers to “un-rig” the state’s tax code and increase taxes on the state’s wealthiest earners.

“Over the last decade Gov. LePage advanced lopsided tax cuts that made it harder for our state to invest in people and communities,” said Garrett Martin, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy, a left-leaning think tank that advocates for progressive tax policies.

Martin said LePage-era tax cuts cost the state about $864 million, money needed to meet the state’s obligation to fund public schools and share tax revenue with municipalities.

During his eight years in office, LePage ushered in some of the largest income tax cuts in state history, lowering Maine’s top tax bracket from 8.5 percent to 7.15 percent. LePage’s reforms also eliminated the state income tax for 70,000 of the state’s lowest wage earners.

Still, the economic policy center and others who advocate for the poor in Maine have argued that LePage’s tax cuts have mostly benefitted wealthy residents while wages for low and middle-income Mainers have stagnated and government programs meant to help them have been virtually gutted.

Martin said rates of childhood hunger and poverty have increased in Maine while declining in other states in the Northeast. He said the Legislature is now in a position to reverse those trends by shifting course on tax policy.

Portland City Councilor Pious Ali speaks at a news conference to call on Maine’s Legislature to roll back some of the state income tax cuts enacted under former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, in Augusta on Thursday. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

“This Legislature has inherited Gov. LePage’s rigged tax code and the funding challenges it presents,” Martin said. “They’ve inherited the fact that the poorest Mainers pay more of every dollar they earn in taxes than the top 1 percent.”

Others urging lawmakers to revisit LePage’s tax cuts included Portland City Councilor Pious Ali, who said important programs for workforce development and language acquisition for immigrants are underfunded.

“If we fix our tax code and stop wasting money on tax cuts that enrich only a lucky few … (we would have) more than enough money to fund our schools, to provide high-quality local services and make other forward-looking investments in our future,” Ali said.

But Mills has vowed not to increase income taxes and repeatedly said she does not intend to unravel reductions made under LePage.

While Mills has unwound much of LePage’s conservative legacy, especially welfare reforms, she has largely left his tax reforms untouched.

And both Republican and Democratic members of the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee say income tax increases are unlikely to be included in the state’s next two-year budget, due by the end of June.

“Absolutely not,” Sen. James Hamper, R-Oxford, the committee’s ranking Republican, said Thursday. The budget committee has been working from Mills’ proposal, which does not include tax increases. “We are trying to work within our available means,” Hamper said.

Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chairman of the committee, said members want to finish work by Memorial Day and Democrats are working under the assumption there will be no tax increase.

“The reality is we have a budget that’s been proposed by the governor, who has expressed no appetite for increasing taxes in this budget,” Gattine said.

He said some lawmakers hold different positions on raising taxes or rolling back LePage’s tax cuts, but he is working toward unanimous committee support for the final budget bill and that won’t happen if it includes tax increases.