LePage on the income tax

Last Tuesday at a public town hall meeting in Farmington, Maine, Governor Paul LePage verified that he will be directing the effort for a 2016 ballot measure which would implement a flat income tax of 4% percent by 2021, eventually eliminating state income tax entirely.

If the ballot measure is passed, Maine’s wealthiest residents will receive a massive tax cut. This would allow for a reduction in the quality of Maine public services. The tax cut will cost the state nearly $600 million, equivalent to approximately half of the currently available state funding for K-12 education.

This is just one
facet of LePage’s
“Vision for Maine”,
 which includes welfare reform, reducing student debt,
and lowering energy
costs for Mainers.
 LePage announced
these new initiatives
at the first town hall
meeting, which will
be held weekly up to
the 2016 elections.
 His purpose for these
events is to encour
age Mainers to vote
for legislators who will protect small government and individual rights in the 2016 elections.

Tuesday was LePage’s first meeting since June, and he spoke for thirty minutes outlining his four-point vision. He then proceeded to respond to audience questions for an additional thirty minutes. Centralmaine.com reported that LePage said, “I ask you this when you go to the polls in ’16…. I don’t care if they’re independent, if they’re liberal, if they’re Democrat, Republican, conservative, libertarian. I don’t care what their affiliation is, but I do ask you this: elect people that are fiscally responsible with a little bit of common sense that won’t use ideology to stunt progress, and that’s what we’re doing to the state of Maine.”

LePage has received positive feedback from his heavy emphasis on income tax as the root of Maine’s fiscal issues. Maine’s income tax is currently at 7.1 percent, which is high compared to the national average of 5.5 percent. In June, Maine legislature did not pass LePage’s proposed state budget, which included lowering the income tax to 5.75 percent. LePage refuses to give up, telling the Maine Public Broadcasting Network that by proposing a ballot initiative to completely eliminate the income tax, he is appealing straight to the voters.

LePage supported his reasoning for the income tax reduction by pointing out that many Mainers choose to spend six or more months a year in states like Florida and New Hampshire, because these states do not have an income tax.

Many voters have voiced their concern about whether or not benefits would be cut to compensate for the annual $3 billion loss from eliminating income tax. LePage responded that the state would raise its sales tax in an effort to capitalize on summer tourists. He also stated that employing efficient state spending with welfare programs will help make up for lost tax revenue.

Another crucial aspect of LePage’s four point plan is reforming Maine’s welfare system, although he does not seem to have any concrete plans to accomplish this restructuring. In response to increasing criticism that he is not a “compassionate governor”, LePage said that although he cares for the elderly, disabled and mentally ill, he is “not going to help just anybody for the sake of helping. I am not that compassionate.”

Despite this, the issue of college students and student debt has caught his attention, with LePage commenting “I feel really bad for the young people of this state, all I’m trying to do is compete, attract younger people to Maine. Maine can have jobs.” LePage argued that the high cost of education and student debt is harming Maine, as graduates are forced to leave the state to find job opportunities. He voiced his disapproval of the state legislature rejecting his bill, which proposed interest free loans and a dollar for dollar tax credit that would be eligible for any business that helped cover their employee’s student loans.

LePage also spoke about cutting energy costs to encourage manufacturing companies to stay in Maine, as high-energy costs have been attributed to why Maine’s mills have been closing in the past. He believes that the national energy debate is too focused on wind and solar, while he thinks that natural gas and heat pumps are the best fit for Maine.

Despite LePage’s insistence on these meetings being held on a weekly basis, neither he nor his press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, have shared the location or date of his next town hall meeting.

 

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