Strimling to push for new Portland sales tax even as property taxes set to rise

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling will advocate for a new local sales tax in Portland, Maine even as property taxes are set to rise as a result of a Portland school budget that spends ten times what state funding is set to increase under Gov. Janet Mills’ budget proposal. Photo courtesy Mayor Ethan Strimling Facebook page.

AUGUSTA – With a school budget proposal that will drive up property taxes by increasing Portland school spending by 10 times the funding increase Portland Public Schools is proposed to get from the state, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling will make a pitch this week to the Maine Legislature’s Taxation Committee that the city should also be allowed to impose a local sales tax.

Read also: Portland school budget proposes spending hike of ten times the state funding increase

The testimony, published in the agenda packet for the Portland Legislative Committee’s meeting on Monday, March 25th, shows Strimling will support a bill that would allow cities such as Portland to tack on a local option sales tax in addition to the 5.5% tax the state requires businesses to charge for most consumer goods.

“Currently, Maine is one of only twelve states nationwide that do not allow for a local option sales tax,” Strimling will tell the committee. “Further, the Maine statewide general sales tax of 5.5% is the fifth lowest sales tax rate in the United States. The capacity is available to allow a 1% local option sales tax.”

Strimling’s testimony will also claim that the city of Portland would collect $16.8 million in additional tax revenue from the local sales tax.

While a large portion of that would be paid by the 67,000 people who live in Portland, Strimling argues that some of it would also be paid by the 30,000 or so people who visit or work in Portland on an average day.

Some businesses, such as retailers that sell large ticket items subject to sales tax, like jewelry and auto dealers, would also presumably take a hit, as the sales tax increase on a car or truck, for example, would increase the price in Portland by hundreds of dollars over competitors in neighboring communities.

Even some progressive groups oppose a local option sales tax, saying it is the most regressive tax to raise, and that those who can least afford to pay more in taxes are the most likely to be unable to travel far enough to escape it.

The Maine Legislature’s Taxation Committee will hold public hearings Wednesday, March 27th at 1pm on four different proposals to allow communities to impose a local option sales tax in Maine.

Following is a list of the four local option sales tax bills that will have a public hearing this Wednesday:

L.D. 65: An Act To Allow Municipalities To Impose a Seasonal or Year-round Local Option Sales Tax (Sponsor: Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center D – Rockland)

L.D. 156: An Act To Allow Regional Service Center Municipalities To Assess an Additional One Percent Sales Tax for Infrastructure Costs (Sponsor: Sen. David Miramant D – Knox)

L.D. 609: An Act To Provide Municipalities Additional Sales Tax Revenue from Lodging Sales (Sponsor: Rep. Maureen Terry D – Gorham)

L.D. 1110: An Act To Establish a Local Option for Sales Tax (Sponsor: Rep. Lori Gramlich D – Old Orchard Beach)

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