AUGUSTA – The Legislature’s Taxation Committee appeared to back away from proposing major tax reform Wednesday, citing a lack of time and little consensus on what needs to be done.

Sen. Richard Woodbury, an independent from Yarmouth, said a three-person subcommittee heard advice from tax experts in recent weeks but no one idea emerged.

“It’s pretty clear there’s a lot of ideas people don’t want, but it’s a little more difficult to see what people do want,” he said.

Also, he said, the push for tax reform has largely been replaced by business’ concerns about health care and energy costs, and creating a friendly business environment.

“Things like this need their political time,” Woodbury said. “This might not be the political time for a major overhaul.”

Rep. Gary Knight, R-Livermore Falls, said property taxes are still a concern and he still hears from business people who think the income tax is too high. But he said the tight timetable — the Legislature is scheduled to meet only from January to April next year — will limit what can get done.

“If we’re going to do this and do it right, we’ve got to get a group of experts outside this building and (outside) the politics that surround this venue,” Knight said.

Earlier in the week, the Maine chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business sent out a statement urging the committee to “scrap expanded sales tax talk.” The committee has discussed ending some sales tax exemptions to help further reduce the income tax.

In the state budget approved in June, the Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage lowered the top income tax rate from 8.5 percent to 7.95 percent effective Jan. 1, 2013.

In recent months, LePage has talked to citizens across the state about his idea to eliminate the income tax on pensions. To eliminate the tax on all pensions would cost $93 million, although he could choose to carve out a specific group as a starting point.

Rep. Don Pilon, D-Saco, said he wants the committee to continue to discuss the possibility of allowing cities and towns to raise the sales tax in their jurisdictions. The committee also discussed legislation that would require a more through review of existing and proposed tax exemptions, deductions and credits.

“Three-quarters of the states have some kind of local-option sales tax,” Pilon said.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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