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Gov. Janet Mills’ new budget relying on plan to tax Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc.

Governor Janet Mills is relying upon a tax on streaming video and audio services as well as ringtones to bolster her new spending plan.

AUGUSTA – If you are one of the thousands of Mainers who purchase one or more of the various monthly digital video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu or YouTube, or if you occasionally purchase a movie or television show via a streaming service such as Amazon, Governor Janet Mills has proposed a bill to tax you for it.

The bill, L.D. 2011, is sponsored by Rep. Ryan Tipping (D – Orono) but the bill itself was submitted by Mills’ Department of Administrative and Financial Affairs. The bill proposes to tax video streaming services and audio streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify, even going so far as to tax ringtones. The bill also makes other changes to Maine’s tax laws.

In her new state spending proposal, which increases spending by more than $126 million, Mills is already committed to spending the tax increase from streaming services, although that bill has yet to even have a public hearing.

Mills estimates the state will collect almost $3.3 million from the proposed bill in the current budget period, which would have approximately one year in effect for the remainder of the budget.

The proposal was blasted Sunday by the non-profit Maine People Before Politics.

“The Mills Administration put in bill that would create new taxes on digital video and audio downloads. Governor Mills even wants to tax your ringtone.”

“On the campaign trail, Janet Mills promised not to raise taxes in her first two-year budget. In her 2019 budget address, Governor Mills told Mainers to “keep in mind: In this budget there are no tax increases. In this budget there are no gimmicks,” said Maine People Before Politics.

“A year later, Governor Janet Mills is not only increasing taxes but also using budget gimmicks to hide the tax increase.”

It’s unclear how much support the individual tax bill has in the Maine Legislature, as it only has one sponsor, but the Mills’ allies in the House and Senate Democratic caucuses, including leaders Speaker Sara Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson have so far enabled Mills’ aggressive spending agenda.

On the campaign trail in 2018, Janet Mills portrayed herself as a moderate, promising not to raise taxes in her first two-year budget but holding back on discussing anything beyond that.

As Maine People Before Politics points out, that promise has been broken.

“The Governor’s tax bill came out January 14, just one year and 12 days into her governorship. The tax would go into effect October 1, 2020, still within her first two-year budget cycle,” said MPBP.

The state of Maine’s “Tax Expenditure” report from 2019 for the years 2020-21 estimates the state would collect about $24 million per year with a tax on a wide variety of consumer purchases, including video services, internet publishing, search engines, data hosting and internet access.

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