I don’t have a crystal ball, and I’m not a mind reader, but there’s one thing I can say without a doubt: People in York County are worried about their property taxes.

The reason I’m so sure is that I’ve heard from them. I have heard the frustration and the uncertainty in their voices. Residents in Biddeford and the surrounding communities have sent me emails about it. They’ve stopped me in the grocery store to talk about it. They’ve called my home phone, my cell phone and my office phone.

People are getting informed. They’ve read the headlines in the papers about the governor’s budget proposal, which is before us in the Legislature. They’ve researched how his tax plan would affect them, and have said, “No thanks. We need property tax relief, not property tax hikes.”

The bulk of concern stems from the governor’s plan to dramatically cut the Homestead Property Tax Exemption — the only property tax relief program that specifically targets people who truly call Maine home. People who live in Maine three months out of the year and somewhere else the rest of the time are ineligible. You must claim your Maine property as your primary residence to receive the relief.

The governor plans to eliminate the credit for any homeowner under 65 years old. That would mean a huge hit for thousands and thousands of residents all over the state, including in the towns I represent. In Biddeford, the elimination of this tax relief program would cost more than 2,200 families $389 each. It’s not just the big towns, either. The problem is even worse in Dayton, where the average property tax increase for affected families will be $415. In fact, every town in Senate District 32 would see property tax hikes in the triple digits for homeowners under 65 years old.

When you factor in the likely property tax spikes that would result from the governor’s proposed cuts in education funding and reductions in state contributions to local emergency responders, police and road maintenance, it’s no wonder my phone is ringing off the hook.

I believe we must do everything we can to help Maine’s seniors, including property tax relief. But we don’t have to hurt younger families in the process. We don’t need to exclude them, or ignore the tax burden that they face, simply because they have not yet reached their golden years.

Seniors understand this as well. A grandmother in Biddeford called me recently, begging me not to eliminate property tax relief for her children and their families. “They’re just getting started,” she said. “If you have to take away someone’s homestead exemption, take mine.”

Property owners are the backbones of our communities, and should be treated equally. Augusta shouldn’t be pitting that grandmother against her children and grandchildren. The governor’s budget proposal is a false choice. We don’t have to choose between tax relief for seniors and tax relief for the next generation.

As your senator, I plan to do everything in my power not only to protect the homestead property tax exemptions, but to provide further property tax relief for Maine families who need it so desperately.

We need to do that because unlike the income tax, which goes up and down along with your ability to pay, the property tax is unyielding. If it skyrockets, all are obligated to pay — whether they’re a family struggling to get by or seniors living on fixed incomes. The governor’s budget prioritizes income tax cuts for the very wealthy. Those cuts are paid for by painful cuts in property tax relief, education and local services.

Neither that grandmother nor her grandchildren should have to pay higher property taxes. I think we should focus on our homeowners, regardless of their ages, our public schools and our communities. That’s what I’ll be fighting for as the Legislature continues its budget negotiations.

In the meantime, I want to thank everyone who’s reached out to me about the budget, and welcome you to call or email me about the issues that affect you and your family. You can reach me at 287-1515, or [email protected] You should also reach out to members of the Appropriations Committee, who have a huge role to play in setting our state’s budget. You can find them at legislature.maine.gov.

Thank you so much for reaching out. We cannot do our work without you.

— State Sen. Susan Deschambault represents Senate District 32, which includes Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman.

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