Republicans Release Proposal to Lower Tax Burden on All Mainers
Closely Mirrors Governor’s Income Tax Reduction Proposal
AUGUSTA – Republican leaders in the Maine Legislature today unveiled a budget proposal that significantly reduces the income tax burden on all Maine citizens, keeps the current sales tax rate of 5.5 percent in place with no expansion of taxable items, and protects programs to help low-income Mainers.
The Republican leaders’ plan reduces the income tax burden on Mainers by approximately $380 million over the next two year budget cycle, while keeping the current revenue sharing rates to municipalities the same.
Under the Republican proposal, the highest marginal tax bracket would not kick in until $50,000 in taxable income, which would create a significant tax cut for Maine’s middle class.
Other highlights of the proposal include:
- Keeping itemized deductions
- Lowering the corporate tax rate
- Exempting military pension income tax
- Safeguarding tax exemption for non-profits
- Keeping Homestead property tax exemption
- Mirroring the Governor’s plan to eliminate the estate tax
Republican leaders said they believe that this proposal is a solid framework to build the necessary support from both parties to pass a two-year budget.
Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo) said, “This is a commonsense proposal that I believe will have strong support in the Legislature. Mainers deserve tax relief, and a simplified tax code. This plan does not include complicated bureaucratic rebate programs. Instead, it allows Mainers to keep their money without having to apply for it by filling out a form and waiting for their check to arrive.”
House Republican Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) said, “We fully support our Republicans on the Appropriations Committee as they work through a complicated process of putting together a state budget. We share in the Governor’s vision of a Maine with no income tax, which is why we signed on to his constitutional amendment to eliminate it by 2020. This proposal provides a road map toward achieving that long-term goal.”
Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin) said, “This tax proposal shows that legislative Republicans are committed to the principles we campaigned on. We remain devoted to ensuring that Augusta is as inconsequential in Mainers’ lives as possible.”
The two-year budget proposal is in the hands of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.
In order for it to take effect, it needs two-thirds approval of both the Maine Senate and House of Representatives.
The Legislature’s statutory adjournment date is June 17, 2015.
Senate Republican Leaders Say Funding Will Support Maine’s Disabled
Calls Democrats’ Grandstanding in Senate Unfortunate
AUGUSTA – Maine Senate Republican leaders today applauded the Governor’s commitment to include funding for adaptive equipment to help Mainers with disabilities in the state’s two-year budget, as well as funding for non-profits.
LD 48 “An Act to Reduce Registration Fees and Excise Taxes for For-hire Vehicles with Adaptive Equipment Enabling Access by Persons with Disabilities,” went before the Maine Senate today, as did LD 13, “An Act to Provide an Exemption for Sales Tax and Service Provider Tax to Nonprofit Collaboratives of Libraries.”
The bills were vetoed when they became unnecessary because funding for the programs was included in the Governor’s change package to the biennial budget proposal.
Republicans in the Legislature are committed to governing effectively and efficiently. There is no need to duplicate these efforts when there’s already funding that will be included in the state budget.
Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo) said, “It gives me great satisfaction to know that we in the Legislature are doing what we can to help those with disabilities. They are the folks we should be trying to help.
“I was disappointed to see Democratic leadership trying to unravel these efforts in order to score political points. Mainers don’t care about inside baseball. They care about results."
Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason said, “I had hoped that on issues that are as important as these that we would be able to avoid political bickering and do what’s right for those we serve. In the end, we got it right, and important programs will receive the funding they need.”
Maine Senate Approves Voter ID Legislation
Augusta – The Maine Senate today approved LD 197, “An Act To Strengthen Maine's Election Laws by Requiring Photographic Identification for the Purpose of Voting” by a vote of 18-17.
“Passage of Voter ID is a great development for all Maine citizens,” said Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo). “There’s a reason why the overwhelming majority of registered voters support this legislation: It protects the integrity of the system, and that is crucial for all of us who put our faith in it. My hope is that the House of Representatives will also acknowledge the wishes of voters and approve this.”
Added Senator Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin), Senate Majority Leader, “Voting is a precious right. Putting a voter ID requirement in place is a commonsense approach to safeguard our system. With everything else people must show an ID for, it is reasonable that citizens would show an ID to vote. I am pleased we took this first step toward implementing voter ID in Maine.”
The measure, sponsored by Senator Ron Collins (R-York), requires that a voter present their photo ID to the election clerk when they check in to receive their ballot. If a voter cannot present their photo ID, they must sign a provisional ballot affidavit and must prove their identity to the election clerk within five business days of the election.
Voters can also cast a ballot without an ID if the election clerk or official can personally attest to the voter’s identity. In these instances, an affidavit will once again be provided by the Secretary of State.
The bill requires the Secretary of State to provide, at no fee, non-driver identification cards to eligible persons who do not have another form of acceptable photographic identification to verify identity for the purpose of voting.
“From voting on union contracts to renting a car to buying alcohol to purchasing certain medicines to getting a marriage license, people have to show an ID. That’s just the start of the list, so it is certainly reasonable to expect that people can present one to vote,” said Senator Collins. “In order to ensure our democracy is functioning as it should be, we have to be able to trust in the integrity of our voting system. That’s just common sense. It is a matter of protecting our democracy.”
Thirty-one states have some form of voter identification law. Courts have regularly upheld the legality of requiring a photo ID to vote, and 74% of Americans polled by Rasmussen support some form of voter identification requirement.
LD 197 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senator Eric Brakey Presents Slew of Welfare Reform Proposals
Augusta – Senator Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) today presented six measures to reform Maine’s welfare programs in front of the Health and Human Services Committee.
In addition to the six proposed bills, Senator Brakey also proposed amending at least one of the measures to include a six-month income look-back for General Assistance applicants, in order to ensure that people who may make a large amount of regular income during a seasonal job are not able to take improper advantage of the system.
“Maine needs to be protecting our truly needy citizens. There are far too many avenues for folks to take advantage of the system and receive benefits that are funded through hardworking Mainers’ tax dollars,” said Senator Brakey. “In recent months, it has become abundantly clear that General Assistance is not being administered in the most effective or efficient manner. By implementing certain reforms, and ensuring that the state and municipalities are aligned on eligibility requirements, we will be vastly improving Maine’s safety nets.”
Senator Brakey also addressed concerns about LD 1037, “An Act To Establish a 180-day Residency Requirement for Welfare Benefits,” and its similarity to legislation in other states that have been struck down by the federal courts.
“I am willing to explore changing this bill to address the issues similar legislation has faced in other states. However, I believe it is worth it to try implementing a residency requirement in Maine if it improves our state,” said Senator Brakey. “Anyone arriving in Maine to seek the American Dream---an opportunity to find honest work, put food on the table for their family, and contribute to our Maine economy---should be welcomed with open arms. But Maine is a poor rural state with a very generous welfare system. We cannot afford to take care of those choosing to come to Maine, not for work opportunities, but for welfare opportunities. We do not want a welfare magnet, attracting individuals to our state looking to sign-up on day one for our generous welfare system. We must instead build a strong economic magnet, attracting immigration to Maine because of a vibrant economy with plentiful work opportunities.”
Below are the bills Senator Brakey presented this afternoon, along with brief summaries:
LD 368 : An Act To Integrate the State's General Assistance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Programs
This bill provides that a person who has exhausted the 60-month lifetime limit on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program benefits is ineligible to receive municipal general assistance program benefits.
LD 369: An Act To Align Municipal General Assistance Programs with the
Immigration Status Policies of the Department of Health and Human Services
This bill provides that a person who has been determined ineligible to receive benefits administered by the Department of Health and Human Services on the basis of a law, rule, or regulation related to that person's immigration status, is ineligible to receive municipal general assistance program benefits.
LD 722: An Act To Strengthen Penalties for Abuse of General Assistance
This bill provides that a person who makes a false representation of a material fact to obtain municipal general assistance is ineligible to receive further assistance for a period of the longer of 120 days and until that reimbursement is made. Current law provides for a period of ineligibility of 120 days.
LD 1035: An Act To Create a 9-month Time Limit on General Assistance Benefits
This bill limits to a maximum of 275 days every 5 years the general assistance benefits a person who does not have any dependents and who is capable of working may receive.
LD 1036: An Act To Prioritize Use of Available Resources in General Assistance Programs
This bill makes an applicant for general assistance who voluntarily abandons or refuses to
use an available resource without just cause ineligible to receive general assistance to replace the abandoned resource for a period of 120 days from the date the applicant abandons the resource. The bill defines "available resource" as a resource that is immediately available or can be secured without delay. The bill also makes an applicant who forfeits an available resource due to fraud, misrepresentation or intentional violation or refusal to comply with rules without just cause ineligible to receive general assistance to replace the forfeited resource for the duration of the sanction imposed on the applicant for violation of a rule or 120 days, whichever is greater. The bill identifies circumstances relating to use of an available resource under which just cause must be found.
LD 1037: An Act To Establish a 180-day Residency Requirement
for Welfare Benefits
This bill establishes a 180-day residency requirement for applicants for the MaineCare program, the statewide food supplement program, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and municipal general assistance.