Across the state, many municipalities are struggling to adequately fund basic services like public schools, local emergency services, libraries and other municipal initiatives that Mainers depend on. At the same time, countless families find themselves at risk of having to make difficult decisions between putting food on the table, affording child care, maintaining stable housing and other basic necessities.

This dynamic is, in part, the consequence of a tax code that has historically prioritized ensuring low taxes for high-income households at the expense of investments in public services that benefit everyone. This represents a fundamental flaw in our tax system. This year, we had an opportunity to change that – one that we missed.

In the Legislature, my colleagues and I came together to pass a bipartisan, Republican-led proposal that would have amended our state personal income tax structure to create a more fair and effective tax system. The current tax structure includes three tiers for single and married filers with increasing income thresholds for each bracket that are taxed at progressively higher rates. The current thresholds for married couples include those with combined taxable income that is less than $42,100, at least $42,100 but less than $100,000 and those with income $100,000 or greater.

L.D. 1231 would have adjusted income tax brackets, ensuring most low and middle-income earners experience either the same or lower rates, while introducing higher rates for wealthier folks. It also would have created a new top tax rate for the wealthiest filers, including families who make $1,000,000 or more. Revenue generated from the new rate would have offset revenue lost from reducing rates for lower brackets.

All told, the proposed changes would have meant that working families could have kept more of their hard-earned money without the state losing crucial revenue that would have helped cover the cost of services we all benefit from, including many that are currently underfunded like rural law enforcement and emergency medical providers, as well as public schools, mental health services and child care programs.

Unlike the sales or property tax, the personal income tax is the fairest and most effective for raising revenue.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy ranks Maine as having the seventh most equitable tax system in the country, in large part because we rely on our income tax, and not other types of taxes, as the largest state-level source of revenue. The tiered system employed in the income tax is based on ability to pay, meaning that higher earners are taxed at higher rates and lower earners are taxed at lower rates. By asking those with higher incomes to contribute more, we could have empowered struggling families, addressed unmet needs such as housing and health care funding, and ensured every family and community has more resources to thrive.

Unfortunately, Mainers will not experience the benefits of this thoughtful, bipartisan policy this year, as it was vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills. However, I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues in future Legislatures to create a fairer and more effective tax structure. While this measure did not get across the finish line, I am optimistic that our work this session will be a starting point for future Legislatures to pass meaningful reforms that ensure the necessary funding for vital public services and investments – while also providing relief to regular Maine families.

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