January 2, 2013

Maine senators, representatives vote in support

The legislation and the process are imperfect, they say, but the measure safeguards the economy.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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In this Oct. 22, 2009, file photo, Maine's Republican senators, Olympia Snowe, left, and Susan Collins, are seen on Capitol Hill in Washington.

2009 file photo/The Associated Press

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Here are some of the ways the fiscal cliff compromise will affect Maine:

Income taxes: Income tax rates will remain the same for everyone except individuals earning $400,000 or more and couples earning in excess of $450,000. Exact figures for maine were not available on tuesday. However, it appears several thousand of maine's 500,000-plus taxpaying "households" -- meaning individuals or families -- will see an income tax increase. A maine revenue services official estimated that less than 10,000 individuals or families in maine earned either $200,000 or $250,000, respectively, so the number affected under the current bill will be even smaller.

Unemployment: The bill will allow those who have been unemployed for six months or longer to continue to qualify for unemployment benefits next year. Between 6,400 and 7,100 Mainers would have lost access to unemployment benefits without an extension.

Payroll taxes: The bill allows a temporary "payroll tax holiday" to expire, meaning that the vast majority of workers nationwide will see their paychecks shrink by 2 percent. Congress reduced the payroll tax -- which is used to help pay for social security -- two years ago due to the recession. Maine revenue services estimated that 2 percent increase translates into $355.1 million in Maine.

Wind power: Wind energy companies received a one-year extension on a 2.2 cent tax credit for every kilowatt hour generated from wind power facilities. Maine has more than a half-dozen commercial wind energy facilities operating in the state with numerous more under development.

Spending cuts: The compromise simply delays roughly $110 billion in across-the-board spending cuts for two months. There is concern about how the cuts will affect programs across Maine, from the low-income home energy assistance program to defense contractors such as the Bath Iron Works shipyard.

Snowe, who is retiring this week after 34 years in Congress, said "it was critical to reach this consensus" on avoiding broader tax hikes that could have undermined the economy and public confidence.

"Obviously there is much more work to be done on long-term debt reduction, entitlement reform and tax reform, frankly," Snowe said. "Nevertheless, the imperative of reaching of an accord also demonstrates at least some capacity to reach agreement on key issues, even if it is at the 11th hour."

For Snowe, the vote might have been the final one of her career. Snowe said the fact that the votes came so late -- after the nation had already gone off the fiscal cliff -- underscored the frustrations that prompted her to retire.

"We've had many questions that have been difficult to resolve, but never have we come up against this kind of deadline where the entire country and the world was focused," Snowe said early Tuesday morning. "And it turns out to be New Year's Eve and New Year's Day when we finally cast our votes on an issue that could have major economic consequences to the country and to most Americans."

Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at (207) 317-6256 or at:


Twitter: @KevinMillerDC


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