December 5, 2013

Washington County residents have mixed reactions to plan to eliminate taxes

Maine's poorest county has struggled for years, and some wonder whether the FreeME proposal from the Maine Heritage Policy Center is the answer to overcoming poverty and boosting population.

By Colin Woodard
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

Related headlines

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council's 40th annual meeting. The Associated Press


This story is part of a reporting partnership between the Portland Press Herald, The Guardian - a global news organization based in London and New York - and the Texas Observer. The documents obtained by The Guardian contain 40 funding proposals from 34 states, providing a blueprint for a conservative agenda for 2014 that could have significant impact throughout the U.S. The Maine Heritage Policy Center's proposal to eliminate income and sales taxes in Washington County is among them.

Read The Guardian's coverage 

Read the Texas Observer's coverage 

Read documents for all 40 proposals.

Read the Maine proposal.


The ALEC Connection

The American Legislative Exchange Council, an influential lobbying network of Republican politicians and big businesses, plans to penalize homeowners who install their own solar panels. It's part of a plan to block state governments from promoting the expansion of wind and solar power. Read the story.


The "Prodigal Son Project" is a plan by ALEC to lure back 40 lapsed corporate members who fled the organization after criticism of its policy on gun laws. The group shapes and promotes conservative legislation at the state level across the U.S. Read the story.


Beacon Hill Institute 

Boston's Suffolk University, host of free-market researcher Beacon Hill Institute, says the institute's grant application doesn't follow the rules or match the school's mission. Read the story.

If it were to pass, it would encourage entrepreneurial activity, creating wealth and solving the problems associated with poverty, says Jonathan Reisman, an economist at the University of Maine Machias and an associate scholar for the Maine Heritage Policy Center.

“It’s a bottom-up approach rather than having the government make a particular infrastructure investment,” he says. “The argument is that the government doesn’t have a good track record of spending money wisely.”

The Center for Media and Democracy, a national group based in Madison, Wisc., that tracks the activities of State Policy Network members and associated groups, says Mainers should be wary of the proposal because of its source. Last month, it released a report alleging that the network is funded largely by global corporations and by groups and foundations associated with conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch. 

“Groups like MHPC paint this work as ‘economic development’ but we need to look at where they are coming from and who is funding their agenda,” says spokeswoman Rebekah Wilce who, by coincidence, was born in Washington County.

Their agenda, she says, is to pass bills that “benefit corporate funders, not the people of Maine.”

Back at The Commons, Linda Godfrey finishes wrapping a gift for a customer from Calais, the county’s largest community (population 3,100).

“I do think we need to be very cautious, and think carefully about what this is really about,” she says as the customer leaves. “There’s always been this attitude about Washington County that we can’t take care of ourselves. And here we are moving forward and this comes along.

“I’m not saying I’m against it,” she adds with a smile, “but it is a little strange.”

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

Twitter: @WoodardColin



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