The governor's tax changes in one (big) sheet.

The governor’s tax changes in one (big) sheet. Jay York photo

The LePage administration’s budget primer tour continued Wednesday. Richard Rosen, the governor’s budget chief, and Michael Allen, the tax policy chief, held media briefings and public presentations designed to fill in some of the information gaps in the $6.3 billion budget.

There are still some gaps, but the administration provided some information new information, including the massive document pictured above. It’s the fiscal note for the governor’s tax plan. It is large. And complicated.

A few takeaways:

* The governor’s proposal to reduce the state income tax and associated offsetting tax credits will result in a $723 million hit in income tax revenues over the next biennium. For context, the income tax brings in roughly $1.4 billion in annual revenue.

* The proposed sales tax hike from 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent, as well as other changes in meals and lodging taxes, is expected to yield $617 million in revenue over the biennium. That includes the broadening of the sales tax base (taxing haircuts, clowns, meat sticks, attorneys), a projected revenue gain of $158.8 million.

* Repealing the telecommunications excise tax = 16.5 million in lost revenue.

* The elimination of municipal revenue sharing = $250.6 million over the biennium.

* All told, the tax changes are projected to result in a $104.6 million increase in revenue over the biennium, resulting in a $125.3 million positive balance for the budget.

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Well, that was fast. Less than a week after LePage said that he wanted to make a change in the president the Maine Community College System, and only day after the system’s trustees voiced support for the current one, MCCS President John Fitzsimmons announced he’s stepping down.

Fitzsimmons’ ouster also featured a big turn in rhetoric. On Friday the governor said of Fitzsimmons, “In four years, I’ve asked for things and I’ve got nothing.” On Monday, he acknowledged that only the board of trustees could fire Fitzsimmons, but that they would “feel the wrath” of his office if they didn’t.

On Wednesday, LePage issued a prepared statement on the president’s resignation.

“For more than two decades, President Fitzsimmons has presided over the Community College System and during that tenure he has accomplished great things. For this, I am appreciative and wish him the best in future endeavors,” he said. “Today, creativity, innovation and competitiveness must propel an antiquated system into a new era. Our students deserve an education that provides them the tools to be successful. It is our job to ensure the educational opportunities are accessible and affordable and lead our youth on a path toward success.”

* * *

Attorney General Janet Mills has acknowledged that she and the governor won’t eat Brie, drink Chardonnay and watch ‘Downton Abbey’ together, but that the two can work together. Except, it seems, when it comes to filling vacant positions.

Over the past two months Mills has submitted five financial orders totaling over $418,000 for the governor’s approval. The orders are to fill vacant positions within her office, including attorneys for the Child Protection division, a homicide prosecutor, money for the Medicaid Fraud unit and a processor for an X-ray machine for the Office of the Medical Examiner. The governor hasn’t signed them and the positions are not filled, according to Mills’ office. According to Tim Feeley, Mills’ spokesman, the governor was supposed to meet with his staff this week to discuss the orders, but the meeting was postponed to next week.

According to the order for the X-ray processor, “Failure to approve this request will require the office to continue to transport decedents to MaineGeneral for X-rays which delays the autopsy process and increases costs.”

Mark Belserene, an employee with the medical examiner’s office, wrote in accompanying memo dated Nov. 20 that the digital lab processor stopped working three weeks earlier.

“This situation leaves this office in an emergency situation,” Belserene wrote. “We currently have no X-ray capability and equipment that cannot be repaired. The need for the equipment is still very vital to fulfilling our role to the people of Maine.”

It’s unclear if the lag between filling these financial orders is routine or a result of the long running feud between Mills and LePage.

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 Finally, one last tax-related item. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a 50-state report Wednesday that found that state tax policies are the least fair for its poorest residents. According to the study, in 2015 the poorest fifth of Americans will pay 10.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle fifth will pay 9.4 percent and the top 1 percent will average 5.4 percent. The study, of course, is just in time for LePage’s tax overhaul, which is designed to raise sales taxes while reducing income taxes — an initiative that ITEP would likely compare similar efforts in Kansas and states that have moved to cut or eliminate income taxes.

You can read the entire study here, while looking at the Maine breakdown here. Below is one graphic from the Maine analysis: