Last fall, newly-elected Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) told the citizens of his state that he pledged to enact “new ideas to get Maine working.” He also promised to defend “the traditional Maine values that have created strong communities and strong families across the state.”
It now appears that LePage is ready to abandon Maine’s strong communities and families with a very old Bush-era idea that has repeatedly failed to get people “working” — gutting necessities for hardworking Main Street Mainers to finance tax cuts for some of the richest in the state. In his budget that was released yesterday, the governor has unveiled a slew of tax cuts, cutbacks in public services, and the gutting of public employee benefits and pensions.
Included in the budget is a provision that would raise the retirement age of public workers from 62 to 65, cut Maine’s prescription drug and health coverage for working parents program, end $400 of property tax relief for more than 75,000 middle-income Maine households, and freeze cost of living adjustments for state employee retirees — which already provides a meager average pension of only $18,500 per year.
Yet at the same time, LePage is pushing through hundreds of millions of dollars of tax cuts. While most Mainers will receive a tax cut under the governor’s plan, the lion’s share of the cuts will go to the wealthiest of state residents. The Maine Center for Economic Policy notes that the average tax cut for most working families in Maine will be a measly $83, while upper income earners will take home an average of $874, and those who earn more than $363,438 — just one percent of the population of the state — will take home a whopping extra $2,770, on average:
And while Millett and business groups gave the tax cuts high marks, the Maine Center for Economic Policy, a liberal think tank, said the cuts give the rich much better benefits than the poor. “Where’s the sacrifice that’s being asked of Maine’s wealthiest residents?” said Garrett Martin, associate director of the center.
The think-tank estimates that the average income tax break for families that earn between $28,139 and $48,050 would be $83 in 2013. That jumps to $874 for those who make more than $199,783 and to $2,770 for those who earn more than $363,438, according to the center.
While unveiling his budget, LePage said that “if you want prosperity, you have got to make sacrifices.” Yet this chart of his proposed tax cuts from the Maine Center for Economic Policy shows that it appears that the richest Mainers aren’t sacrificing at all:
There is reason to believe that Mainers are not going to take such an unfair deal lying down. As a part of a wider Main Street Movement, hundreds of Mainers marched on the State House this past week in support of Wisconsin workers. “The governor proposes largely balancing the state budget on (state workers’) backs,” said Ginette Rivard, vice president of the Maine State Employees Association, who has threatened to lead opposition to LePage’s budget.