Sara Gideon under fire for taking credit for a tax cut that passed before she took office

Speaker Sara Gideon testifies before a legislative committee in Augusta.

AUGUSTA – It’s common in Augusta or Washington D.C. for politicians to try and take credit for any good results that come from a bill they supported. It’s rather rare, however, for a lawmaker to try and take credit for a law that passed and a fund that was created before they even got there.

But Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon is taking heat from Republicans across the spectrum this week after State Treasurer Henry Beck attempted to give her credit for the tax relief in a written statement.

“Speaker Gideon’s bipartisan legislation will provide over $30 million in direct relief to Maine homeowners,” said Beck.

Many Maine media outlets picked up the story and ran with it without, apparently, doing any research into the background of the fund.

In reality, the tax relief Gideon was being credited for passing was due to a law passed by Republicans during the transformative 125th Maine Legislature in 2012.

That law, which was signed by Governor Paul LePage before Gideon ever took office, created a savings account of sorts from unspent state funds at the end of each state budget cycle through what is known as the state budget “cascade.” Since then, the fund has been building, until it grew to reach the $30 million threshold, making the tax relief possible this year.

Even worse for Gideon and Beck, most Democrats opposed the bill when it was passed back in 2012. According to the Maine Senate Republican office, when the law originally passed, only three Democrats out of 71 in the Maine House voted in favor of the bill in 2012. Fourteen of fifteen Senate Democrats voted against the bill.

“It is unconscionable that a State Treasurer whose job is to serve all of the people of Maine should make such a misleading, partisan statement transferring credit from those who fought for this tax refund back in 2012 to those who voted against it,” said Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow.

In a morning interview on WVOM’s George Hale Ric Tyler Show, Governor Paul LePage deconstructed Beck and Gideon’s claim, saying that he remembered the bill well and provided the details, he then went on to point out that Sara Gideon was not even in Augusta yet.

“This was all in our budget in 2012. It’s a shame they think Maine people are stupid,” said LePage. “But the fact of the matter is, you know, Republicans truly are the party for the people and trying to lower taxes.”

LePage then recounted a series of tax cuts he had proposed which were opposed and killed by Democrats in subsequent years. In those years, LePage said he couldn’t get any more tax cuts through the House because of Sara Gideon.

“Sara Gideon does not believe in lower taxes,” said LePage.

“Republicans enacted this tax refund in 2012 above the objections of Democrats and spent the past eight years responsibly managing state government to provide the surpluses that created the $30 million fund.” said Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake. “To now have Speaker Gideon misrepresent the law to try and seize credit for herself while she is in the midst of a campaign for U.S. Senate is dishonest and irresponsible.” 

Speaker Gideon has been rarely seen or heard from in matters related to Augusta in recent weeks, but news of fundraisers across the country where Gideon is attending in order to build a war chest for her 2020 campaign for U.S. Senate have shown that while she may not be working much as the Speaker of the House right now, she is definitely focused on fundraising for her next campaign.

The bill in question was signed into law by Governor Paul LePage on May 25th, 2012.

Sara Gideon was first sworn into office in the Maine House on December 5, 2012, more than six months after the bill had become law.

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