SCARBOROUGH — My fellow town councilors and I don’t always agree on everything, but on Jan. 15, we found common ground. We agreed that we’re tired of tax-shifting from Augusta and that it’s time to fight back.

As the local officials elected to deal daily with the concerns of local residents and town employees, we often hear from constituents who can no longer sustain the burden of the state’s continued shift away from income taxes, which are based on ability to pay, to property taxes, which are based solely on the value of real property, income be damned.

We’ve heard from the 90-year-old widow living in the same house in which she was born. We’ve heard from the clammers and fishermen whose families have lived near the sea for generations, in the same small house, who are now being taxed out of their homes. We’ve heard from the farmers who struggle to make a living and keep their land out of development.

We represent many hardworking, middle-class families whose wages have stagnated while their property tax rates have shot up more than 20 percent in four years.

Yes, Scarborough has pockets of affluence, but there are just as many families who have been in my town for generations, are living on fixed or low incomes and are struggling to stay here. Their greatest expense is their property tax bill, and their greatest fear is losing their home. They come to us for help.

That’s why on Jan. 15, the Scarborough Town Council voted unanimously to support L.R. 2721, the proposal currently before the Legislature to roll back just a few of the tax breaks that go to some of the wealthiest corporations like Walmart and Big Oil in order to prevent $40 million in new tax shifts to Maine towns and force another increase in property taxes across the state.

That is the stark choice: Either close the corporate tax loopholes or ask poor and middle-class Mainers to once again pay more.

There are those who suggest a third way – that we cut more services in town. Where shall we cut? We have employees doing their work tirelessly with reduced resources and increased demands. We have a Public Works department that uses and reuses equipment so much that a retired snowplow literally fell apart on its way to auction. Our fire and police services are stretched dangerously thin. There’s nothing more to cut.

None of the people I’ve talked to are unwilling to pay their fair share. Even my 90-year-old constituent, who struggles to pull together the money that is needed to pay her property taxes, considers it her duty to pay her bills. So why are these corporations getting a free ride?

The companies we’re talking about have no cash flow issues, make solid profits and are mostly from out of state. Keeping their loopholes in place isn’t going to create a single job in our Maine; it will just add a small fraction of a percent to their bottom lines or their CEOs’ salaries.

Fishermen and farmers, the average, hardworking, middle-class homeowner, that’s who needs a break. Let’s not add to their burden and bankrupt our towns in order to serve a corporate agenda.

It is time for the governor and the Legislature to take a long and measured look at the consequences of their actions. We need to restore fairness in the tax structure and fully restore municipal revenue sharing as a method of offsetting the regressive effect of property taxes and the funding of state mandates.

It’s going to be an uphill fight. Corporations know how to work the system. They consider spending money to influence our government and protect their tax loopholes to be a solid investment. The State House is full of their high-paid lobbyists.

These big corporations also have Gov. Paul LePage on their side. He seems determined to do and say whatever he can to advance their interests and make sure the burden of the budget falls on those who can least afford it.

Regular people in Scarborough don’t have lobbying firms. They have me and the rest of the Scarborough Town Council to represent them on the local level. They need their legislators and the governor to represent them in Augusta.

It’s time for us all to finally listen to the people we were elected to serve. Let’s close these corporate tax loopholes, restoring municipal revenue sharing. Let’s protect the average homeowner and protect our towns.

— Special to the Press Herald