Even though my role as a state legislator helps me to understand where my tax dollars go, it’s still difficult every time I open my pay stub and see how much money has been taken out for taxes.

Building on the success of last session’s property tax relief legislation, the Legislature will consider the Tax Fairness plan in a few weeks, which would significantly lower personal income taxes while broadening the sales tax to include some luxury amusements and optional services.

The plan is estimated to give an average Mainer $400 a year back into his or her paycheck. For most families, that’s the difference between being able to save a little money or making difficult choices while living paycheck to paycheck.

Over the past decade, many promises of tax reform have come and gone without being fulfilled. One of the primary challenges has been our tiered income tax system – the more money that you make, the higher your tax rate. These rates, however, have not been consistently adjusted, and it means that the highest tax rate, 8.5 percent, kicks in at $18,500 for an individual and $36,550 for a family; and that doesn’t help anyone prosper, much less make ends meet.

This system has resulted in Maine having the seventh highest income tax rate in the country. Under the plan currently being debated by the Legislature’s Taxation Committee, no one would pay more than 6 percent of their income in taxes, and most people would pay much less overall – making our state the 16th lowest in income tax burden in the nation. That’s real savings.

One of the benefits of broadening the sales tax is that it will bring balance to a very volatile tax base that relies on only a few major items and suffers dramatically when sales on those items dip. It also spreads out the taxes to some occasional or incidental costs, and it means that everyone will save more over the course of a year. For example, my wife and I find time to go to an occasional movie, but since our children are all grown up, we don’t take the family to Fun Town much these days.

Still under consideration is a measure that could provide additional local property tax relief. The Tax Committee is still debating whether to join 32 other states in allowing local communities the option of raising taxes like meals and lodging a little more, with the extra revenue dedicated to property tax relief. In tourist areas like ours, this can mean exporting some of our tax burden to our summer guests, and help lower our property taxes year round.

While you might pay a little more for your dry cleaning, you’ll be seeing a lot more of the money you’ve earned back in your paycheck, and saving more in the long run. After all is said and done, most Mainers will save more than $300 per year on taxes that they pay.

The exact details of the broadened sales tax base are currently being worked upon, and I hope to have more news to share in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if I can offer any more information on this proposal or any other initiative pending before the Legislature, please feel free to call me at home at 892-6591, or e-mail me at [email protected]

Rep. Mark Bryant


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