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FACT CHECK: Maine Dem Budget Committee Chair rewrites history on revenue and wages

Rep. Drew Gattine is the House Chair of the Maine Legislature’s powerful Approprations Committee.

AUGUSTA – Rep. Drew Gattine (D – Westbrook) is the House Chair of the Maine Legislature’s Appropriations Committee and an outspoken supporter of higher government spending and more control over the private sector. In a recent Twitter exchange with Maine Senate Republicans, Rep. Gattine made two very bold claims that appeared to be an attempt to rewrite the history of Maine’s wage and revenue growth.

Among Gattine’s responsibilities in the Maine Legislature shepherding the two-year state budget to passage along with working on any other proposed spending bills.

Following is a fact check of Gattine’s claims, which can be seen in the tweet below:

FACT CHECK #1 – Rep. Gattine says Maine has had wage growth in large part because voters overcame Republican resistance and increased the minimum wage.

FACTS: Maine saw stronger wage growth, so strong it led the nation, in the three years (2013-2015) before the passage of the new minimum wage increase.

In the years that have followed since the passage of the mandated minimum wage increases, Maine has not been able to return to the strength we were seeing in the years before the increase.

Nationally, a report from the American Enterprise Institute recently showed that workers in states that did not increase the minimum wage are ahead of workers in states that did increase the minimum wage. Tight labor markets and recent federal tax cuts are being credited as much larger drivers of wage growth than minimum wage increases.

CONCLUSION: Gattine’s statement may be a case of optimistic and partisan wishful thinking, but national data and state data show his claim is FALSE.

FACT CHECK #2 – Rep. Gattine says that the state of Maine has had strong revenue growth due to Democrats defeating additional LePage tax cuts in 2015 and his tax conformity bill in 2018.

FACTS: Maine’s revenue growth began well before 2015, despite Gattine’s claims. Maine began seeing significant revenue surpluses in 2013, following the enactment of LePage’s massive tax cuts. At the time, Democrats claimed the tax cuts would cause budget shortfalls, but revenue grew during the eight years Paul LePage was in office and continues to grow now.

According to the Maine Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review, from 2011 to 2015 Maine saw revenue growth of more than $300 million.

In the five years before that, revenue was in decline, dropping by more than $176 million under Governor Baldacci and the higher tax rates before LePage’s tax cuts.

CONCLUSION: Again, Gattine may be offering some wishful thinking here, but the published revenue data from the very authority that the Maine Legislature, and Rep. Gattine himself, is supposed to rely upon, shows that state revenue was quickly increasing well before 2015.

It is not possible that Democrat opposition to two proposals in the Maine Legislature after those revenue increases had already been realized can somehow be given credit for increasing revenue. Further, the decline in state revenue before the LePage tax cuts, followed by a significant increase in revenue once they were enacted, suggests that the opposite of Gattine’s claim could be true.

It’s hard to give Gattine the benefit of the doubt and call this claim wishful partisan thinking like his first claim. The numbers are readily available to him, and it is in his scope of responsibility in the legislature to know these numbers. For those reasons, Gattine’s claim about the influence of Democrats on the state’s revenue is also, unforgivably, FALSE.