NORTH BERWICK — In the last few weeks, the Legislature has been debating tax conformity, a topic not on everyone’s radar and one everyone would rather avoid at dinner parties. But it will have a serious impact for Maine, and for your family.

This year, Congress extended and made permanent a series of tax breaks, some of which were originally intended to combat the Great Recession. Maine has to decide which pieces, if not all, of the plan to adopt.

There are many great aspects to conformity, including tax breaks for teachers, homeowners, businesses and students. Democrats and Republicans, including Gov. LePage, are in almost complete agreement on those benefits of conformity.

Our disagreement centers on exactly what, and how much to fund.

The governor’s proposal for tax conformity has a price tag of $38 million and contains tax breaks that may be ineffective and a waste of your money and mine: most notably, the Maine Capital Investment Credit.

The credit retroactively applies to large businesses that may no longer be doing business in Maine. I don’t think Mainers should foot the bill to underwrite the bottom lines of corporations that are not continuing to do business here. We need more information before we recklessly extend this credit for years to come, especially knowing the needs that face us.

Our families and communities face many urgent challenges that we as a Legislature must work to address.

We recently learned that a significant number of cities and towns throughout the state will need more money to adequately fund their schools. If the Legislature does not increase funding by $23 million for the next school year, these communities will have to cut money out of our classrooms and shift costs to property taxpayers.

While we were able to make some headway with the passage of important legislation last month, we continue to face five deaths a week to a crippling drug crisis that is indiscriminate in its destruction. And we have serious needs for updated transportation and repaired bridges and roads so our families can get to work and school safely.

Like most, if not all of you, I don’t relish paying taxes. I have three young children. I can’t imagine a time when that extra money in my paycheck wouldn’t be helpful, but I bear it because I know it’s important to do my part. I believe in our state, and the great things we can accomplish together, so I want to make sure the taxes we pay and the resources we do have are going to the people and programs who really need them.

This year, the Legislature has over 300 bills before us that are important to the lives of Mainers.

Legislators are fighting for improved services for our veterans, who deserve to come home to a hero’s welcome, not poverty.

We’re fighting for better funding for our teachers and schools, so our kids can become hardworking, successful citizens who can compete with the rest of the world.

We’re fighting for our seniors and the people who care for them, so our elderly can continue to live in their homes and communities rather than increasingly expensive nursing homes.

We’re fighting for Maine’s rural communities, including expanding critical access to broadband Internet, which will make the difference for growing businesses and good-paying jobs. We’re fighting to ensure that our family and friends with mental illness receive the services they need in treatment facilities, not jails.

And we’re fighting for businesses – large and small – so they can continue to take risks, innovate and produce the world-class products and research Maine is known for.

This is a small list of the priorities before us that does not include a multimillion-dollar wish list that the governor has only begun to propose.

All of these things are important, but they also cost money. Our job is to make smart choices with the money that we do have, to try to make your life better, easier, safer and healthier.

We can fund tax conformity responsibly so that Mainers can file their taxes for this year without jeopardizing the things we care about. While the governor may be willing to blindly permanently extend tax breaks that may not even benefit the Mainers who pay for them, Democrats are not.

Democrats will continue to fight, and fight smart, for the things that matter most to Maine, and to you. Please urge your representatives on either side of the aisle to fund tax conformity responsibly, while protecting our schools, communities and families.

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