March 10, 2010

Tax law repeal bid moves ahead

SUSAN M

— By . COVER

Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — An effort by the Maine Republican Party to overturn a recent overhaul of the state tax code has taken a step further with Secretary of State Matt Dunlap's circulation of a new people's veto question.

Dunlap wrote this question:

''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?''

GOP Party Chairman Charlie Webster said Republicans are moving ahead to get the 55,087 signatures to put the question on a future ballot.

Although they'd like to get the signatures as quickly as possible, he said, they may prefer to have the question on the ballot in June 2010, rather than November 2009.

''It will give us time to travel the state,'' he said.

It would also give the tax reform opponents more time to raise money for a campaign. Webster said he's putting together a speakers bureau with conservatives and liberals who will talk about the new law.

''The more we talk about it, the more angry people become,'' he said.

Supporters of the law say it reduces the overall tax burden for 87 percent of Maine people and gives the state a more stable funding source for future revenue.

The law reduces income tax rates from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent for those making less than $250,000, raises the meals and lodging tax from 7 percent to 8.5 percent and applies the 5 percent sales tax to new goods and services. For those who make more than $250,000, the rate would be lowered to 6.85 percent.

Newly taxed items would include tickets or entry fees for movies, miniature golf courses, race tracks and carnivals. Services such as car repairs, shoe repair and furniture restoration would also be taxed.

Rep. Patsy Crockett, D-Augusta, a member of the Taxation Committee, said lawmakers tried to pick items that were discretionary and taxes often paid by tourists. She said most Maine people will see their taxes go down as a result of the restructuring and that Republican efforts to repeal the law are political and not based on policy.

''Obviously, I'm hoping people will not sign (the petition), because I think it's something really good the Legislature did by coming up with a way to lower people's income tax,'' she said.

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