AUGUSTA – In an attempt to endure present and future economic recessions in Maine, were you thinking of squeezing a bit more life out of essential products and services used in your daily life?

Maybe buy a new muffler and hang on to the family auto through another mud season? Perhaps that winter coat and dad’s shoes wouldn’t look so shabby after a visit to a tailor or shoe repair shop?

Wonder if a good dry cleaning could get that spot out of the sweater you once wore to work?

Those life-survival options, and scores of others, will not be as available to Maine citizens unless they vote “yes” in the June 8 primary to repeal the Maine Legislature’s infamous tax shift enacted in 2009 as LD 1495.

A hardworking band of volunteers decided Maine people did not need more than 100 new taxes, and gathered enough signatures last year to place a citizens’ repeal of LD 1495 on the June ballot.

It is now up to the already over-taxed Maine people to proclaim loud and clear that enough is enough.

Even proponents of the tax swap will agree that the overall tax gain will be minimal, and they will use terms such as “progressive,” “regressive” or “exportable” in attempts to justify support for a major shift in tax policy, a policy that does not treat all Maine taxpayers the same or measurably reduce the state’s overall, high-tier tax burden. The staunchest advocates concede that the plan was designed to be revenue-neutral.

In the days and weeks ahead voters will hear thousands of numbers tossed about in an attempt to explain the complex variables imbedded in this legislation. In the end, Maine taxpayers would have more favorable odds making a quick fortune in Las Vegas than they would depending on Augusta’s proposed income-to-sales tax shift to significantly improve their overall tax burden and lot in life.

One thing is clear. If this proposal is not repealed, 100 percent of Mainers will pay the 5 percent sales tax on more than 100 products and services not previously taxed, or will see the amount they are already paying significantly increased.

The ancient adage that the only certainties are death and taxes was no doubt written with such a scenario in mind. New taxes are certain if LD 1495 is allowed to become law.

On the other side of the equation stands a computer.

Feed it some numbers and pledge not to purchase too many additional products and it will predict whether your income tax burden decreases a bit, stays the same, whether you’re in the right bracket for a meaningful decrease, or maybe indicate whether your increased sales tax burden will outweigh any income tax decrease.

Will the computer be able to accurately project what an individual taxpayers’ situation will be two to five years down the road?

In a state so strapped for cash, whether a complicated shift of income taxes to the sales tax is good or bad tax policy — or any kind of well-crafted “policy” at all — will be impossible to determine by a single vote cast in the June 8 primary.

On the same June ballot and the one in November, voters will be asked to sanction the borrowing of tens of millions of additional dollars, a tax bill future generations will have to pay.

In the most recent legislative session, lawmakers pieced together a plan to compensate for a $310 million revenue shortfall, and members of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee are already predicting future revenue shortfalls that could be much higher.

At the State House in Augusta, more and more observers are concluding that the only way to meaningfully improve the state’s economy and create jobs is to reduce taxes, not simply shift them.

Vehicle towing, moving, rental of storage units, entertainment tickets, miniature golf, meals and lodging, furniture repair, computer hardware repairs, office equipment repairs, and even an enduring treat as simple as a candy bar will join the cast of thousands already marching like zombies in Maine’s infamous tax parade. The list goes on and on.

The only way to halt the parade and send a message to tax-writing lawmakers is to vote “yes” on Question 1 to repeal the tax shift on June 8.

 

– Special to the Press Herald