Hi, this is Bruce Bickford, State Representative from Auburn.
I serve as the Lead member of the Taxation
This week, I want to talk about taxes and the
difference between House Republicans and Democrats.
That difference is clearly illustrated by the
checks that 305,000 homeowners are receiving from the State of Maine.
If you are a homeowner enrolled in the Homestead
Exemption through your town, you may have already received a check for $100.
Democrats are touting these checks as “real
property tax relief” and taking credit for them.
Here is the real story behind these checks.
These payments are the result of a 2012 law
passed under Republican leadership. That law, and eight years of responsible
budgeting, has resulted in a $30 million fund.
The fund was originally designed to assist in
gradually lowering Maine’s income tax rate to 4%.
Permanently reducing Maine’s income tax rate
for all taxpayers.
In 2019, legislative Democrats changed the
law to shift the fund away from permanent income tax relief for all Mainers,
instead, directing it only towards households that qualify for the homestead
In 2012, legislative democrats overwhelmingly
opposed the proposal, to gradually lower income taxes.
Now that there is $30 million in the fund,
they decided to change the law and give out $100 checks to qualifying
2020 happens to be an election year.
Democrats are also touting the fact that the
state budget includes an increase the Homestead Exemption, more revenue
sharing, and an expanded Property Tax Fairness Credit that will help an
additional 13,000 low-income Mainers.
On that point, we can agree. Democrats
included the Republican property tax proposal in the state budget.
That proposal, the Keschl/Millett plan,
allocates an additional $75 million in property tax relief, some of which will
go directly to homeowners by increasing the Homestead Exemption to $25,000.
Republicans insisted on this type of tax
relief because it goes directly to homeowners in the form of lower property tax
Republicans believe both income taxes AND
property taxes should be lowered.
We continued to support the goal of lowering
income taxes permanently, while House Democrats moved to give one-time $100
property tax relief checks to people in an election year.
Which brings me to another topic closely
linked to taxes, spending.
The State of Maine does not have a revenue
problem, it has a spending problem.
The Governor and solid democrat majorities in
the House and Senate, produced an eight billion dollar, two-year state budget
that is 11% more than the last one and close to $1 billion dollars higher.
Republicans have concerns about its long-term
impact on family budgets and on local property taxes. It does not raise taxes
in the short run, because it spent the surpluses accumulated under Governor
The budget that passed is not one that
Republicans would have adopted were we in control of the legislature. The
Governor’s reliance on one-time monies will require some tough choices going
If the staggering number of bills we will be
considering this session and the Governor’s State of the State address are any
indication, Democrats will continue to spend without setting priorities and
borrow money into the future, without worrying about budget shortfalls in
Republicans were pleased that the Governor
indicated in her address that she was open to dedicating a portion of the
budget toward fixing our roads and bridges.
She also mentioned the need to address the
crisis with our nursing homes and direct-care workers.
These are core priorities that Republicans
felt were not adequately addressed in the $8 billion dollar budget.
Another area that we are concerned about is
the Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund. We have urged
the Governor and Democrats to put more money aside in case there is an economic
downturn or unforeseen emergency.
The Government Finance Officers Association
recommends putting 17% of annual operating revenue into the rainy day fund.
The current fund has $237 million, or just
6.6% of operating revenue.
This makes the fund $415 million dollars
short of the recommended allotment.
The previous administration put money aside
in this fund to manage risk. That is responsible governance.
It is why the current administration was able
to pay the Riverview bill. Our expectation is that the current executive will
continue this responsible fiscal management, so our bills can be paid.
The Governor is proposing to add $20 million
to the fund. This is a good start, but, it is unclear if legislators in her own
party will agree with her recommendation, or decide to spend that money on
We know that every penny counts for Mainers
and that is why House Republicans believe you should keep more of your
We will continue to oppose new laws that make
it harder for people to live, work and raise a family in Maine.
But we need the help of informed and engaged
citizens contacting their local representatives whenever there are proposals to
raise taxes on items such as gasoline, home heating fuel, beer, wine and
spirits, food, lodging and any other items Democrats seek to tax.
We appreciate that you took the time to
consider our position on these and other important policies.
This has been State Representative Bruce
Bickford with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.