The new legislative session has begun and legislators have received their committee assignments. I am pleased to have been appointed by the Senate president to serve on the Taxation Committee. As the ranking senator on the committee, I will provide leadership role in crafting responsible tax policy working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
The committee will play a very important role this session as we work on policy regarding taxes, tax credits, property valuation and assessment, plus municipal revenue sharing – the mechanism by which state funds get sent back down to our local communities to pay for things such as public works and public safety.
Everyone is impacted by these issues. They have a direct effect on the quality of life for every Mainer and their ability to afford happy and healthy lives. I don’t have to tell you that property taxes have skyrocketed over recent years as the state government has consistently shifted the financial burden to local property taxpayers rather than tourists or the very wealthy. Seniors on fixed incomes and struggling families can barely keep up and stay in their homes. I’m committed to fighting for a better tax system where residents come first, everyone pays their fair share, but no one is unduly burdened. With this committee assignment, I will be in a unique position to push for a reduction in the tax burden on the residents in our community. I have also submitted legislation to do just that.
We need to strengthen taxpayer accountability of corporate tax breaks to ensure we are getting the most bang for our buck. Just two years ago, one of the state’s daily papers published an investigative report that revealed that the New Hampshire-based Cate Street Capital received tax credits to invest in the Great Northern Paper Mill in East Millinocket, only to renege on the deal and leave Maine taxpayers on the hook for $16 million. That’s just one of many examples where taxpayers dole out hundreds of millions of dollars for “incentives,” but end up with very little to show for it. We need a much smarter approach to economic development that supports businesses without leaving Maine people out to dry.
My committee colleagues and I will also have to deal with the education referendum passed back in November. This referendum increases funds for public education and helps stabilize property taxes by adding a 3 percent surcharge to taxable individual income above $200,000 for an individual filer. This will get us to the voter mandated 55 percent of the overall cost of education funding coming from the state. I believe we need to respect their will and make sure this referendum becomes law as it was written. You’ll hear about this the most in the news along with the other passed referendums.
Bringing both sides together to reform the tax code, strengthen taxpayer accountability of corporate tax breaks, and respect the will of the education referendum vote will not be easy, but I’m thankful for the trust of my colleagues to have a seat at the table in crafting the solution.
I am happy to discuss these and any other issues at my monthly mobile office hours that I will hold throughout the district. For updates on specific times and locations and to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter, you can go to www.JustinChenette.com.
This is your seat. I work for you.
Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, OOB, Hollis, Limington, & Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is owner of Chenette Media LLC, a multimedia public relations company, and is the president/CEO of the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement, a 501c3 nonprofit service organization.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco