Today we depart from our usual practice of giving one view of an issue as the newspaper’s position. Instead, we offer a pair of views written by our two editorial writers.

Anyone can find something to hate in the tax reform bill. Since I don’t play golf, I can be outraged that golf courses were excluded from the list of businesses that would have to start collecting sales taxes.

But when Mainers go to the polls next week, they should not get so obsessed with the details that they miss the big picture. This imperfect reform would create a far better tax code than the one we have now. Its flaws can be fixed when the Legislature comes back into session, but the overall improvements that would be felt by virtually every taxpayer in the state will be off the table for a long time if there is a defeat at the polls.

The tax reform package is designed to fix two problems: Maine’s income tax rate is too high and its sales tax base is too narrow. Together, they make Maine a hard place to attract or expand business, and makes the state revenue stream volatile to boom and bust.

If car sales and new home starts bottom out during a recession, as they did during the last two years, state revenues bottom out as well, creating panic in the State House and uncertainty for the business community.

lowering the top income tax rate from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent (with small a surtax on incomes over $250,000) the state cuts taxes on wages, capital gains (which are taxed at the same rate as income) and 90 percent of Maine businesses, which as sole proprietorships, partnerships or S-corps pay income tax on profits through their personal returns.

To pay for the cut, the state would expand the sales tax to services that have so far been tax-free and increase the meals and lodging tax. This has been described as anti-business, anti-low-income and anti-tourist by Question 1’s backers, but those claims don’t wash.

If it were anti-business, this measure wouldn’t have the support of the Maine State Chambers of Commerce.

If it were bad for low-income people, the liberal think tank Maine Center for Economic Policy wouldn’t be on board.

And even with the higher meals and lodging tax rate, Maine’s would still be lower than its chief competitors, New Hampshire and Vermont, which recently raised its meals and lodging tax to 9 percent with no bad effects.

The plan to readjust tax rates to collect more from out-of-state visitors makes sense. People come here, drive on our roads, rely on our emergency services and, in many cases, pay less in sales tax here than they do at home. There is nothing wrong with asking them to pay a little more and no evidence that it would keep people from visiting the state.

The campaign for repeal focuses on the “102 new taxes” people would have to pay, even though Maine Revenue Services projects that the vast majority of Mainers would see a net tax decrease under this code. If the price for a tax structure that puts more money in people’s pocket adds a few pennies to the cost of a candy bar, it’s worth it.

People like to say “no” to taxes, but this election they should say “no” to this repeal and let this common-sense law take effect.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.