The Supplemental Budget: A Wasted Opportunity to Provide Real Relief


As lawmakers (finally) finished their work this week, Democrats passed a new supplemental budget that amounts to a wasted opportunity to provide real tax relief to hardworking Mainers. In fact, the hundreds of millions in additional spending does the exact opposite.

Included in the spending package is a new 1% payroll tax increase, shared by employers and employees, to fund a new paid family and medical leave program. Rather than go the route of New Hampshire and pursue a paid leave program that does not include new mandates or taxes, the legislative majority opted for a government-run system which will surely result in mismanagement, cost overruns and future payroll tax increases down the road.

Maine, which is already home to the third highest tax burden in the country, adds a greater financial burden to its comparatively poor population under this new budget. These new mandates and taxes on individuals and businesses only serve to make our state less competitive, both regionally and with the rest of the country.

Instead of pursuing tax relief for everyone, the Democratic majority passed a new corporate welfare program – the Dirigo Business Incentive program championed by Gov. Janet Mills – which overhauls the former Pine Tree Development Zone program. These handouts to corporations don’t create new jobs or incentives for businesses to settle here. They’re nothing more than a giveaway to existing corporations at the expense of all taxpaying Mainers.

The only relief present in the final spending plan is an increase to the pension exemption for retirees. While this is an improvement over the status quo, this relatively narrow benefit does little to help working Maine families who continue to pay high taxes and higher gasoline, grocery, home heating fuel and other prices amid persistent inflation and economic uncertainty.

It’s unconscionable that with record revenues, lawmakers did nothing to help the average Maine family get ahead. Not only did they fail to enact meaningful tax reforms, they also killed a bill that would have eliminated costly solar subsidies which the state’s public advocate, Bill Harwood, said amount to a $275 per year tax on every electricity ratepayer in the state.

The best way to summarize this year’s special session and budget negotiations is a wasted opportunity. A wasted opportunity to provide tax relief. A wasted opportunity to provide ratepayer relief. A wasted opportunity to make Maine more competitive and a more desirable location for working families, businesses and capital investment.

That’s how the 131st Legislature will be remembered.