Maine Newspapers Endorse Fair Taxes to Fix Budget Shortfall

Christopher Cousins | BDN

Maine’s largest daily newspapers have now all endorsed making the tax code more fair as part of the upcoming biennial budget debate. The Portland Press Herald (and MaineToday sister papers the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel), the Lewiston Sun Journal, and the Bangor Daily News have now all inveighed against further cuts to important programs and increases in local property taxes and have suggested fairer solutions instead.

This paper was perhaps the most vague in their prescription, simply stating that “In dealing with the biennial budget, the Legislature must examine the tax code, to see how to generate more revenue” and that “Most of all, we want legislative leaders to promise that they will focus on what will actually grow Maine’s economy over time — by helping people get out of poverty and by not adding to the property tax burden already borne by the middle class.”

The MaineToday newspapers were more direct, noting that “by the governor’s own admission, there is nothing left to cut” and that “Lawmakers from both parties are going to need more revenue to balance this budget and taking it from municipalities is not the answer.”

They suggest instead that the Legislature re-examines LePage’s “huge tax cut, about $400 million over two years, which did not go into effect until January and has never been paid for.”

The Sun Journal similarly notes that “at this time Gov. Paul LePage is all about hiking taxes, property taxes.” They present a number of options instead:

Democrats would repeal or slow the implementation of the income-tax cut, in effect a tax increase.

Others are talking about raising the lodging tax, which is now less than Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont, but higher than Massachusetts.

Maybe we should re-examine the soda and sugar tax that was rejected by taxpayers several years ago. Or we could increase the sales tax for two years to offset what the governor says is a temporary, two-year cut in revenue sharing.

The choice, it seems, is who should now fill the big hole in the state’s budget by paying more taxes.

There’s a reason that President Obama spent the last several months of his presidential campaign talking about increasing taxes on the wealthy. It’s both good policy and good politics to make our tax system more fair. As these editorials make clear, it’s by far the best option to deal with a difficult budget.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike writes about Maine politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center, writes a political column for the Portland Press Herald