By House Republican Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham
Democrats’ may spend over $10.3 billion of tax revenue in the next two years – an increase of 20% from the governor’s last biennial budget proposal.
During last week’s budget negotiations, House Republicans proposed to provide an additional $200 million in tax relief for our most vulnerable families who are being crushed with record-breaking increases in costs of living. Low- and middle-income wage earners especially need to be able to keep more of their hard-earned money.
An income tax reduction would help all earners, especially earners on the lower end of the pay scale. According to the U.S Congress Joint Economic Committee, it costs the average Maine family an additional $625 a month more than in January 2021. That is $7,500 more a year to live in Maine.
Maine is the third highest tax burdened state by income in the country. According to another study, Maine ranked No. 4 in the U.S. for the highest portion of personal income going to state and local taxes. Only New York, Hawaii and Vermont are ranked higher.
In the last year, the state returned more than $1 billion to taxpayers in the form of $850 and $450 relief checks. Republicans supported those checks, because the alternative was bigger state budgets, as family budgets get smaller.
Republicans believe the state’s current financial position and increased revenue projections, mean that Maine is in a position to provide income tax relief. If not now, when?
Democrats have proposed to spend in excess of the current statutory cap on spending, end the legislative session months early, and open the door for a patchwork of “supplemental” budgets in the next year that would further increase spending. Despite another year of taking in hundreds of millions more in tax dollars than was anticipated, Republicans’ modest $200 million proposal to lower the bottom income tax bracket as part of the biennial budget was rebuffed.
Majority Democrats have ended negotiations on the biennial budget and will now pass some form of their “continuing services” budget without further Republican input.
Democrats do not appear to be about working together for Maine people. Their budget plans spend nearly every single dollar of taxpayer money and expand state government. Their measure of success appears not to be the effectiveness of government, but how much they can grow it.
They propose to tack on over 150 new positions to state government, adding to the more than 2,000 positions that are funded but unfilled in areas like Child Protective Services. Looking at the governor’s proposal one might think her workforce strategy is simply to have everyone work for state government or a contracted nonprofit organization.
Republicans’ proposal to reduce income taxes for lower- and middle-income people making under $50,000 was a modest, reasonable price for generating a bipartisan budget, recognizing that Democrats are in complete control. One that came on the heels of Democrats conceding that returning excess revenue to taxpayers is good by agreeing to send back over $1 billion in two rounds of refund checks in the last year. Republicans supported those checks as a means of returning money to taxpayers quickly, with bipartisan support for crafting a permanent solution to the over collection problem in the next session. Democrats now refuse to have that conversation at this time.
Maine’s biennial budget nearing $10 billion would set a new high water mark for spending. This spending likely doesn’t come with improved student outcomes, reduced opioid deaths, less homelessness, or a flourishing economy. It just makes ineffective strategies cost more. The people of Maine deserve better.