The sun shines on Maine's Capitol in this spring file photo. Credit: Troy R. Bennett

By a three-vote margin, the Maine House has given preliminary approval to a bill that would allow cities and towns to impose a local tax on meals and lodging.

If enacted, the bill would allow municipalities to adopt a 1 percent tax.

Voters in those towns would have to approve it via referendum.

Democratic Rep. Mike Sylvester of Portland, says the local tax would benefit not just the municipality, but also other parts of the state, because 25 percent of the revenues would go to the Maine Rural Development Authority, which provides economic development assistance to rural communities.

“Why would a representative from Portland care about investment in rural Maine? Well, Madame Speaker, my district can’t thrive if the rest of the state is failing,” Sylvester said.

The proposal failed to win support from Republicans, who said the tax would disproportionately affect low-income Mainers. Assistant minority leader Trey Stewart of Presque Isle opposed the bill.

“It’s more about just expanding taxes in a regressive manner on hardworking Mainers. And that’s something that I take issue with,” Stewart said.

More than a dozen Democrats voted with the Republican minority to oppose the bill, which now moves to the Senate.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.