As the Emperor Napoleon is quoted as saying, “When you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.”

That is, if you set yourself a goal, don’t stop until you have achieved it. Anything less is failure.

Now that Gov. LePage has released his new budget, it’s time to remind him, and every legislator who will have a chance to either amend or accept it, of this absolutely vital point: “When you set out to cut taxes, cut taxes.”

And the fact that the governor’s budget is highly reminiscent of two previous Democratic “tax reform” proposals that shifted the tax burden from income to sales taxes but didn’t cut taxes at all is not what many conservatives expected.

True, LePage’s budget promises to do much better than those plans, both of which were rejected by voters, but we’re only at the very first stages of the process.

The problem with modern tax systems is that their purported reason for existing – to fund government services – is secondary to another purpose every politician fully comprehends: to provide targeted subsidies and exemptions to ensure their beneficiaries’ support.

So individuals and organizations, including other levels of government, descend on lawmakers to push, pull, pry and probe until their itch gets scratched by gaining either an exemption, a deduction or a subsidy.

What if you don’t have a lobbyist or lack the time or clout to achieve your own goodie bag of tax favors?

Hey, that’s why we call you a tax payer.

And it seems obvious that there will be plenty of people who think the tax cuts and shifts in LePage’s plan don’t scratch their particular itchy spots.

Still, it promises to cut taxes substantially – at the cost of broadening and raising the sales tax and trimming aid to municipalities by a net of about $100 million.

But LePage says that putting up to $300 million a year in Mainers’ pockets is a worthy trade-off. And since municipalities are closer to the citizen than the state, they can make the case directly for raising local taxes to fund local projects.

Meanwhile, The Tax Foundation, which rates states competitively based on their tax rates, says LePage’s plan “simplifies the individual income tax by eliminating a range of credits and deductions, cutting rates, and adjusting income modifications.”

The bottom line? “All told, these reforms will result in a $1.2 billion cut in individual income taxes over the FY 2018–2019 biennium,” and “all earners would pay less in income taxes than they do now.”

So far, so good. And, the foundation reports, the plan also would:

 “Cut corporate tax rates and consolidate brackets over time, with the top rate declining to 6.75 percent by 2021, compared to a current rate of 8.93 percent. Although the LePage plan would not make Maine the 30th state with a flat corporate income tax – there is no compelling policy rationale for disparate treatment of corporate income – by having the top rate kick in for all income above $25,000, the plan brings the state much closer to one.”

 Broaden the sales tax base and raise rates, “albeit in the context of a broader plan that has the overall effect of cutting taxes. All told, the sales tax increase and expansion is estimated to raise an additional $831 million over the FY 2018–2019 biennium.”

(But, “although the expansion to services makes the sales tax more progressive on the whole, since the consumption of consumer services is more concentrated in higher income brackets, the LePage plan … envisions a refundable tax credit based on the number of tax exemptions claimed, which is phased out above certain income thresholds to limit applicability to low-income families.”)

 Double the homestead exemption (to $20,000) for senior citizens and eliminate it for taxpayers under age 65, while reducing taxes on all pensions and eliminating them on military pensions and inheritances.

 Block General Assistance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payments for “undocumented immigrants.”

 Cut in half “the current 100 percent exemption above a $500,000 exemption for the real property of nonprofit organizations, with the exception of houses of worship.”

(That cut “is expected to generate at least $60 million in annual revenue to localities,” partially offsetting a $164 million cut in aid.)

 Finally, the Tax Foundation says, “Estimates from the governor’s office suggest that by the FY 2018–2019 biennium, the plan would offer a state tax cut of $250 million per year” (LePage says it will be more) and raise the state’s business tax rating from 33rd in the nation to 23rd, increasing Maine’s chances for growth.

If you like that idea, you might let your state senator and representative know. Otherwise, the only people they’ll be hearing from will be the ones with all the lobbyists.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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