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  • Dems "Better Deal for Maine" gets strong public backing at Bangor town hall

    Downtown Bangor, Maine, photo by Ramona du Houx

    by Ramona du Houx

    Bangor-area residents and community leaders showed strong support for Democrats’ Better Deal for Maine tax reform plan tonight during the first town hall meeting on the proposal in Bangor.

    More than 100 people attended the town hall to learn more about the proposal, which cuts taxes for the middle class, lowers property taxes for all Maine homeowners and invests in Maine schools, workers and communities.

    “We heard strong support for our plan tonight from everyday Mainers who share our concerns about the Governor’s proposal. Our economy lags behind the nation and our tax system is rigged for those at the very top.  Governor LePage has proposed a budget that will make it worse. Our plan will make it better,” said Speaker Eves. “A Better Deal for Maine grows the economy from the middle out. We reject the trickle-down economics that will only widen the gap between the rich and the poor in our state.”

    Speaker Eves and Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond announced the Better Deal for Maine plan to counter Governor Paul LePage’s budget. According to a new 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.

    “Mainers want a better deal for themselves, a better deal for their communities and a better deal for the economy,” said Senator Alfond. “Our plan ensures more Mainers can keep more of their hard-earned money. It decreases the tax burden on Maine’s working and middle-income earners while asking the wealthy, corporations, and out-of-staters to pay their share.”

    The Better Deal for Maine:

    • 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.

    The legislative leaders were joined by members of the local-area delegation, including State Senators Geoff Gratwick and Jim Dill as well as State Representatives Adam Goode, Victoria Kornfield, Aaron Frey, John Schneck and Arthur “Archie” Verow.

    “The Better Deal is a great deal. It lowers taxes for working Mainers and the middle class, not just the wealthy,”  said Democratic State Senator Geoff Gratwick of Bangor. “We will once again be investing in our schools, public safety and infrastructure. It is paid for and fiscally responsible. I passionately believe that we need to be investing in programs that strengthen our communities, not just the affluent.  The Better Deal marks the return of common sense.”

    Governor LePage’s proposal will leave a $300 million hole in the state’s budget starting in 2018. With education funding making up 35 percent of the state budget, there will be no choice but to force cuts to schools. Elsewhere in the United States, in states like Kansas and Louisiana, these kind of top-down economic policies have resulted in fiscal crisis and deep cuts to schools.

    “The Governor’s plan should be a wake up call to every parent of a school aged child in our state,” said Rep. Tori Kornfield, a former school teacher and House chair of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. “It will cripple our ability to invest in our students and schools now and in the future. Gutting our children’s education is bad for their future and our economy.”

    Democratic leaders will hold a second town hall next week in Scarborough.