On April 12, 2107 Democrats on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee (AFA) formally introduced three amendments outlined in their budget proposal, The Opportunity Agenda. The plan calls for the largest property tax cut in Maine history; invests in jobs and the economy; fully funds public schools; makes college degrees more affordable and attainable; supports families, seniors, children and veterans; and provides meaningful student debt relief.
“For years, homeowners have seen their property tax rates skyrocket to cover the cost of education and essential services,” said Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook), chair of the AFA committee. “Direct property tax relief, as outlined in these amendments, will enable Mainers to keep more money in their pockets and municipalities to balance their budgets without increasing property taxes. We’ve heard from our constituents that this is their priority and we are committed to being the voice of the people in this budget debate.”
“For as long as I’ve been in public service, whether on the Town Council or in the Senate, constituents have been consistent in their demand for lower property taxes, and I intend to deliver. The Homestead Exemption provides targeted relief to people who build their lives and raise their families in Maine. To be eligible, the home must be a primary residence — not a summer home or an income property. Increasing the exemption will put money right back into Mainers’ pockets, which they can save or spend in the local economy,” said Sen. Cathy Breen of Falmouth, the Senate Democratic lead on the Committee, who introduced an amendment to grow the Homestead Exemption.
The amendments proposed included:
- Increasing the Homestead Exemption - The proposed amendment would increase the share of exempted value by 50 percent - going from $20,000 to $25,000 in the first year of the biennium, and to $30,000 in the second year. Estimated $50 million dollars in tax relief.
- Expanding the Property Tax Fairness Credit - This program gives refundable tax credits to low- and middle-income homeowners and renters to offset high property tax and rent costs. The amendment offered would expand the benefit to reach more Maine families. Estimated $33 million dollars in tax relief.
- Increasing Municipal Revenue Sharing - The Municipal Revenue Sharing program redirects a percentage of the state’s total sales and income tax revenue back to communities to cover the cost of essential services such as law enforcement, road and bridge maintenance, and fire protection. The amendment offered would increase the percentage from 2% to 3%. Estimated $64 million sent back to municipalities.
“Our plan uses every tool available to provide the largest property tax relief effort in our state’s history,” said Speaker of the House Sara Gideon (D-Freeport). “As we work through this process, it will be clear that our plan capitalizes on our natural advantages, delivers quality services and invests in Maine’s future. That’s what Mainers want and we intend to deliver.”