AUGUSTA – The chairman of L.L. Bean’s board of directors has donated $25,000 to a group fighting a proposal on the June ballot to repeal a new tax law.

That makes Leon Gorman of Yarmouth the biggest single contributor to either side so far this year, according to finance reports filed with the state.

With the election just eight weeks away, neither side has raised or spent much money, according to documents filed with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Gorman and others opposing the repeal have contributed a little more than $28,000. Supporters of repeal have raised $4,255 combined.

“It’s very much a grass-roots outreach,” said Curtis Picard, treasurer of the Vote Yes to Reject New Taxes committee, which supports repeal. “It’s certainly not a November election. With a primary, not as many people come out to vote.”

The Legislature passed the law last year. It reduced the top state income tax rate, expanded the sales tax to cover more than 100 new services, and increased the meals and lodging tax. Democratic supporters said the law provides a more stable source of revenue for the state while shifting some of the overall tax burden to tourists.

“Maine people will see a 30 percent increase in their income tax rate if Question 1 (the repeal) is approved in June — and no one can afford that,” said Crystal Canney, spokesman for the No Higher Taxes for Maine committee. “On the other hand, if the law is allowed to stand, income taxes will be reduced for 95 percent of the people.”

Repeal opponents reported a total of $28,550 in contributions and $42,362 in unpaid debts for the Jan. 1 to March 31 reporting period.

Canney said repeal opponents expect to raise “several hundred thousand dollars” following the campaign kickoff last week.

Other than Gorman, two other contributors gave to the PAC: Cyrus Hagge, president of Cyrus Hagge Property Management in Portland, gave $2,500, and Owen Wells, president and CEO of the Libra Foundation, gave $1,000. The debts are owed to The Potholm Group of Harps-well for polling and consulting and Bernstein Shur of Augusta for legal expenses.

Still Fed Up with Taxes, which supports the repeal, reported $1,555 in cash contributions, most of which came from Common Sense Solutions for Maine’s Future, a leadership PAC run by Assistant Senate Minority Leader Jonathan Courtney, R-Springvale.

Still Fed Up worked to get Question 1 on the June 8 ballot. It asks voters: “Do you want to reject the new law that lowers Maine’s income tax and replaces that revenue by making changes to the sales tax?”

The group, which has been supported financially by the Maine Republican Party, formed last year to gather the signatures necessary to put Question 1 on the ballot.

A second group backing the repeal — Picard’s group, Vote Yes to Reject New Taxes — reported $2,700 in cash contributions, more than half of which came from the Maine Innkeepers Association.

Picard said he’s confident that, once the owners of small businesses affected by the sales tax expansion learn about the law, they will vote to repeal it.

“Our issue with tax reform is, it’s expanding the sales tax on over 100 new items, and it’s affecting small businesses that don’t have a voice in the State House,” he said.

 

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]