Budgets are more than just numbers. They are moral documents and statements of priorities. That’s why I take strong issue with Gov. Paul LePage’s budget.
It includes huge giveaways to the wealthy and corporations while forcing higher property taxes for Maine families, cuts to schools and health care for seniors. Those misplaced priorities hurt Maine people and are bad for our economy.
In recent days, the Taxation Committee received a long-awaited analysis from Maine Revenue Services showing that the LePage budget provides Mainers making $40,000 per year an average tax break of $145 while those making $400,000 get an average tax break of $10,679.
The analysis shows the top 1 percent of earners will get 25 percent of the tax break and the top 10 percent will receive 51 percent of the break. The budget also gives $118 million in tax breaks to corporations in the next four years.
No person or politician should defend giving $10,000 to people who make more than $400,000 per year while working families send their children to school hungry and seniors can’t afford their prescription drugs. It’s a matter of fairness.
LePage’s budget would result in a $48 million tax shift onto property taxpayers and communities to fund K-12 education, a likely increase in community college tuition, and the elimination of $4 million in funding for pre-K. It would also eliminate $48 million in funding for prescription drugs and health care for tens of thousands of Maine seniors.
Maine families deserve a better deal. We can’t afford tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations while investments in our workforce, our schools and our economy get short shrift.
We remember LePage’s promise that his 2011 budget and tax cuts would lead to strong economic growth. Yet, today we lag the nation and our region when it comes to job growth. Plus, Maine wages are 20 percent behind.
The 2011 tax breaks were costly for Maine people and communities, and with this new proposal many of my constituents in Bangor are experiencing deja vu. They’ve seen their property taxes rise once already from LePage’s tax breaks for the wealthy and they don’t want to see it happen again.
This time the stakes are even higher. These tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations will bankrupt our state and cripple our ability to invest in our schools, communities and future.
Elsewhere in the United States, other Republican governors have pursued ideologically driven economic programs, promising that deep income tax cuts will lead to strong economic growth and job creation. The policies have not worked. The results are just the opposite — huge budget deficits and cuts to education.
In Kansas, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback pushed a similar tax plan through the Legislature a few years ago, and this year he just announced $44 million cut to K-12 education and public universities.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal similarly forced through huge cuts that were supposed to lead to a booming economy. Louisiana, however, is $1.6 billion in debt and has cut education more than any other state in the country.
Democrats believe Maine people deserve a better deal. We will work for one in the coming weeks as we provide recommendations to the Appropriations Committee. Democrats are focused on what we know will work — investing in our people. We’ve talked to businesses and workers across the state, and their message is clear: invest in our workforce to grow a better economy for all Mainers.
Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, is House chair of the Legislature’s Taxation Committee.