Months after Gov. Paul LePage unveiled his bold plan to overhaul Maine’s tax code, legislative Democrats finally have come up with a counter offer, of sorts. Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond call their package a “better deal” for Maine, and they recently hit the road to sell their plan to Maine people.
Where the governor wants to reduce and within a few years zero out Maine’s individual income tax, Democrats actually are proposing to cement the state income tax in place with more brackets kicking in at lower levels of income. The Democrats’ self-proclaimed “better deal” is really a raw deal for Mainers, but the big picture is even worse than that.
As I begin my second term in the Legislature, I struggle almost daily to wrap my head around the Democrats’ job-killing legislative agenda. They behave as if the voters elected Mike Michaud governor last fall and gave Democrats a mandate to continue their decades-long waterboarding of Maine’s private-sector economy. “Extremist” aptly describes the Democrat agenda at the State House, as well as the zealots who agitate for enactment of the Democrats’ far-left policy package.
The Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, or LCRED, on which I serve is ground zero for the Democrats’ relentless assault on the small, independent, family-owned businesses that are the backbone of our rural economy. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear public testimony on Democrat-sponsored legislation that goes far beyond what even the most liberal, anti-business state legislatures are doing to smother and handcuff job creators.
Get a load of this:
LD 1101, An Act to Adopt a Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights, is six pages and 3,000 words of workplace scheduling and wage mandates, modeled on two ordinances recently adopted in San Francisco.
LD 1217, An Act to Require at Least 2 Weeks’ Advance Notice of the Work Schedule for Hourly Employees at Certain Businesses, is another five pages and 2,500 words of statutory language unlike anything on the books in any other state.
Passage of these bills would place Maine out of step with every other state in the country, increase the cost of doing business here, create friction in the workplace and send a clear message to Maine’s small business owners that they would be foolish to hire new employees. A grocery store owner from Ellsworth who employs 22 people including the couple who own the store submitted written testimony to the committee: “This has truly blind-sided me and we are totally against both these bills. … They are ridiculous and troubling. I am trying to wrap my tired mind around the purpose of such restrictions and regulations. I tell you it makes you want to just close up shop. How distressing.”
Both bills are sponsored by Democrats, and all the co-sponsors are Democrats and an “independent” who caucuses with the Democrats. And get this: the bills exempt nonprofits and government entities from the avalanche of new mandates. Only businesses trying to earn a profit get whacked. Maine’s vast and lucrative nonprofit sector gets a pass.
Predictably, several of Maine’s most vocal left-wing progressive nonprofit groups showed up at the public hearing urging us to pass these bills. Maine Equal Justice Partners, Maine Women’s Lobby, Maine Center for Economic Policy, and of course the Maine AFL-CIO all weighed in to tell us what a wonderful world it would be if the Legislature enacts these bills.
To close the loop here, at a recent public forum hosted by Eves and Alfond, a member of the audience named Cokie Giles asked how she could help ensure the Democrats’ tax and budget package wins. Giles is no stranger to left-wing extremist politics in Maine.
As head of the Maine State Nurses Association four years ago, she embraced the Occupy Maine squatters in their squalid tent cities that popped up in Bangor, Augusta and Portland. Giles proudly proclaimed, “we saw the protests in Cairo last spring and we said, ‘When are we going to see that here?’”
Stripped to its core, this is the left’s vision for Maine: mobs of unkempt angry protesters railing against the one percenters.
Gov. LePage and Republican legislators have a very different vision. We want to restore freedom and prosperity to this great state, and make it possible for everyone in Maine to be successful.
These two competing visions are mutually exclusive; there will be no splitting the difference. One will eventually prevail over the other.
We should all be one percenters.
Lawrence Lockman, R-Amherst, is serving his second term in the Maine House of Representatives (District 137). He is the ranking Republican on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee. He may be reached at email@example.com.