Maine families can tell you from firsthand experience: trickle-down economics do not grow our middle class. It’s time that we recognize that the best way to grow our economy is from the middle out, not the top down.
The previous Republican-controlled Maine Legislature passed tax cuts that further widened the gulf. They pushed through $400 million in tax cuts largely for the wealthy without a sure way to pay for them. Now the bill is coming due.
These unfair tax cuts passed in 2011 provides the top 1 percent a break of nearly $3,000. Middle-income families would see a return of a little more than $100.
In order to pay for these unfair tax breaks, Gov. Paul LePage’s budget proposal would force increases in local property taxes on the middle class and working people, on seniors and small businesses, and on homeowners already strapped in these tough times.
We have a window of opportunity to turn this around and start fighting for our friends, neighbors and family. House Majority Leader Seth Berry has introduced a Buffett Rule for Maine, named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who argues, rightly, that it’s not fair that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does.
When you look at all the state and local taxes Maine residents pay, it turns out that the highest-income households in Maine currently pay roughly 10 cents per dollar of income on taxes. Meanwhile, the average household pays slightly more than 11 cents while the lowest-income households pay 17 cents.
Rep. Berry’s bill would provide tax cuts to more than 314,000 middle-class and working families. The measure would do this by leveling tax rates. If the top 1 percent of earners – primarily married joint filers making at least $400,000 – are paying less than the statewide rate, they would pay on average a penny more per dollar of income.
The Buffett Rule for Maine recently won the support of the majority of the taxation committee. A Republican member and an independent joined Democrats in endorsing the measure. Similarly, four out of five Maine voters support the approach, according to a Maine People’s Resource Center poll. Our Congressional delegation supports a federal version of the Buffett Rule.
This comes down to economic fairness. We are all concerned about paying our bills, but passing unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy created an unnecessary burden on property taxpayers and continues to cause us headaches when it comes to the ability to pay for essential programs and services within this current budget. The appropriations committee, in order to compromise to ensure a veto override, chose not to roll back or delay those unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy in the revised proposed budget. If that piece ends up not being added via a floor amendment, the least we can do is fight for this bill to create a more fairer tax system moving forward.
Justin Chenette is the state representative for district 134 in Saco. You can get legislative updates about the work out of the 126th Legislature at www.justinchenette.com, Facebook.com/ justinforsaco, and Twitter.com/justinchenette.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco