Clockwise from the speaker: Joel Johnson, Maine Center for Economic Policy, Will Ikard, Maine Small Business Coalition,Jennie Pirkl, Maine People’s Alliance, Melanie Collins, Melanie’s Home Childcare, Falmouth, Bettyann Sheats, Finishing Touches Shower Doors, Auburn, Cathy Walsh, Arabica Coffee, Portland and Toby Alves, Union Bagel, Portland, at a roundtable discussion comparing LePage's proposed Budget with a Better Deal for Maine at Arabica Coffee in Portland on May 11. Courtesy photo.
By Ramona du Houx
On May 11, 2015, the Maine Small Business Coalition held a roundtable discussion in Portland with local small business owners, State Representative Denise Tepler (D-Topsham), and a budget analyst about Gov. LePage’s proposed state budget.
"There are two fundamental problems with the governor's tax reform plan. First, it doesn't adequately target tax cuts to low- and moderate-income Mainers. Second, it would force cuts to education, health care, and other critical services important to Maine people and businesses," said budget analyst Joel Johnson of Maine Center for Economic Policy. "The bottom line is that the “Better Deal” helps create a more fair tax system that ensures proper funding for education, healthcare, and other critical services important to all Maine people and businesses."
The “Better Deal” proposal prioritizes investment in communities and local economies helping main street businesses. Under the leadership of Gov. Angus King and Gov. John Baldacci it was understood how important basic investments to infrastructure, education, healthcare and public safety were as measures everyone needed to live in Maine. In addition, Maine’s downtown creative economies have been improving the quality of life for all residents ever since Baldacci administration policies, working with lawmakers and small businesses, led to voter-approved bonds helping main streets.
"My business depends on state and local investment in public safety, transportation, and education. I rely on local police and fire to keep my business safe, well-maintained roads so my customers can get here, and public education to provide the best possible workforce. I hope legislators will trust small business owners and pass the Better Deal, which would fully fund these priorities,” said Cathy Walsh, owner of Portland's Arabica Coffee.
Other small business owners also voiced strong support for the "Better Deal for Maine" plan at the meeting.
"When Maine families have a little more money, they spend it locally at my store and others like mine. When the super-rich get a tax cut, they invest in their Wall Street portfolios. State government should be focused on getting money into the hands of my customers," said Toby Alves, co-owner of Union Bagel in Portland.
According to an analysis from the national non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and the Maine Center on Economic Policy, the “Better Deal” for Maine would cut taxes, on average, for the bottom 95 percent of Maine taxpayers. It would provide a larger tax break than the Governor’s plan, on average, for the bottom 80 percent of Maine taxpayers.
The “Better Deal for Maine” highlights:
- Puts more money in the pockets of Maine families: Lowers property taxes by $120 million annually for Maine residents by doubling the Homestead Exemption for all Maine homeowners and by increasing the Property Tax Fairness Credit by more than $57 million per year.
- Invests in Maine's future: Bolsters investment in Maine students, workers and seniors. Increases funding for K-12 education by $20 million per year.
- Prevents property tax hikes: Increases revenue sharing to $80 million each year for local services like police, fire, and public works, while rejecting the Governor’s new taxes on non-profits.
- Targets income tax cuts for the middle class: Cuts income taxes by hundreds of dollars for the vast majority of Maine families while asking the wealthiest 5 percent to pay their fair share. Under the Better Deal for Maine, 98 percent of income tax cuts go to the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers. Under the Governor’s plan, 50 percent of the tax break goes to the top 10 percent.
- Is fiscally responsible: Unlike the Governor’s budget, the Better Deal for Maine is fully paid for now and into the future.
"It was great to have this opportunity to meet with the real drivers of Maine's economy - small business owners - and hear their concerns about tax and budget policy," said Rep. Tepler, who sits on the Taxation Committee. "It is my responsibility as a legislator to support policy that helps Maine's communities and that's why I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting the Better Deal plan."