Tuesday, March 11, 2014
1. Do you support reducing Maine’s personal income tax rate? If yes, what is your time frame and how will you pay for it?
Yes, I support reducing Maine’s personal income tax rates. Our businesses need capital and a reduced income tax rate would increase the flow of investment to Maine. It will be difficult to lower the rates as the state emerges from the effects of the global recession. I will consider an incremental approach.
I believe the state income tax rate should be lowered to 5 percent and I think we can do it in eight years. According to the Envision Maine report, there is a billion dollars in savings in Maine government if we can get our spending rates to the national averages.
Over time, we need to lower Maine’s top rate, from 8.5 percent to around 6.5 percent. But we need to be realistic. Lowering the top rate immediately will cost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. We need to get the economy moving again, create jobs, grow our revenues so we can begin to lower that rate. I don’t have an exact timetable.
Before we can even discuss tax reform, we must demonstrate to Maine people that we have stopped the bleeding, squeezed out excess spending and balanced the budget without resorting to gimmicks. Then we will undertake comprehensive reform of our entire tax structure – income tax, sales tax, estate tax and property tax – in a way that will result in a fairer, simpler and flatter tax system. I aim to achieve this by the end of my first term.
Yes. We can reduce Maine’s personal income tax by initiating proven, business processes, which bring operational savings to government. One example is the current “Bend the Curve” initiative, which has demonstrated $127 million in state savings if we act now. Maine can make this happen. The time frame is two years.
2. What is the best way for Maine to reduce commercial and residential electricity costs?
Conservation yields immediate savings. We must ensure access to natural gas by connecting the pipeline to our homes and small businesses. And we must continue our investment in our renewable portfolio including tidal, solar, biofuels and wind. The Gulf of Maine has the potential to yield the wind power equivalent to 40 nuclear power plants.
Everything is on the table and everything gets assessed in terms of the potential to deliver more affordable electricity for Maine families and businesses. Additional steps we can take include tapping the natural gas lines that already run through Maine so we have more alternatives to oil. And we need to look north to Canada for partnerships that can deliver cheaper electricity to Maine.
Conservation is the low-hanging fruit of energy independence. As far as alternative energy development goes, the guiding principle must be what has the greatest energy impact with the least environmental impact. For example, we can retrofit existing hydro dams with new turbines that increase output 25-30 percent with less environmental impact.
I have proposed a Maine Energy Finance Authority, a new public power and energy finance authority – to bring low-cost capital to public-private partnerships, to reduce the price of electricity and to expand the availability of natural gas for industrial and commercial users and communities in Maine. The Authority also could make bulk purchases of power from Hydro-Quebec for resale in Maine.
ISO New England’s own vice president testified to Maine’s legislative committee on energy that we could lower energy cost for Maine families and businesses. The governor’s office did not act on this recommendation. I will.
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