Maine State Capitol, photo Ramona du Houx

May 16, 2021

By Ramona du Houx

Trickle down economics has been proven not to help grow the economy. The tax breaks from state and federal government for the wealthy 1percent, have not helped the middle class or disadvantaged better their circumstances. They have served to increase the wealth of the most fortunate, while others continue to suffer. The majority of Americans live payday to payday and cannot afford to come up with $400 if an emergency happened. In Maine, former Gov. LePage codified tax cuts for the 1percent, at the determent of all other Maine people.

Rep. Ben Collings, D-Portland, introduced a measure to roll back the LePage administration tax breaks on Maine’s wealthiest estates on May 13, 2021, in a public hearing before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee. 

LD 1524 would return the state exemption on Maine’s estate tax to $2,000,000 from the $5,600,000 level adopted during the LePage administration. The bill also creates a new exemption of up to $3,800,000 to protect the transfer of family-owned heritage businesses like family farms and aquaculture, fishing and wood harvesting. Both exemptions would be indexed to inflation. 

“If we want an economy in Maine that works for everyone, our tax code should be built around your ability to pay,” said Rep. Collings, who also serves on the committee. “Instead of keeping tax cuts for the tiny handful of Maine’s very wealthiest residents, we should be thinking about how we can better serve working families and improve the quality of life in our state.” 

Collings’ measure drew supportive testimony from several organizations, including the Maine Council on AgingMaine Equal JusticeMainers for Tax Fairness and Sierra Club Maine.

“Wealth inequality is 10 times more concentrated than income inequality,” said Sarah Austin, tax and budget policy analyst for the Maine Center for Economic Policy. “The estate tax, paid only by the very wealthiest, is a critical tool for reducing inequality and investing in the things that create shared prosperity. But in the last decade, Maine’s estate tax has been hollowed out, delivering a massive tax break to the ultra-wealthy while funding for our schools, communities, and health care fell behind.”

The committee will hold a work session and vote on Rep. Collings’ bill in the coming days. 

“As we look to rebuild our economy, we should look at ways to create a more equitable future for the children and families in our state,” said Ann Danforth, a policy advocate with Maine Equal Justice. “These bills would help build a more equitable tax system and support Mainers with low income and people of color.”

Collings is serving his third term in the Maine House and represents District 42, part of Portland.

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