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Political News

Political Media Releases

As we receive them, we'll post political media releases here. Links to websites of those representing our area are below, along with their most recent media releases.


Lincoln Republicans brave rain for sign-waving event

September 15- The political season is getting into full swing now that Labor Day is past. Local Republican candidates and supporters gathered on West Broadway today for a hot dog bar-b-q and sign-waving event. Intermittent rain showers didn't deter the enthusiastic crowd and many passersby showed their approval by waving and tooting their horns.

Maine would benefit by ending income tax


By Rep. Jeff Gifford

AUGUST 30- When I went to work in 1964 at Eastern Fine Paper, every dime I earned was left alone by the state. The mill looked like it would operate forever, and those of us working there knew that with hard work, we would have our jobs as long as we wanted. Back then we did not have a state income tax. We paid taxes to the state in the form of sales tax and property tax, but the state had the common sense to leave the money we worked for in our hands, to spend as we saw fit.
All of this changed in 1969 when Governor Curtis decided, along with allies in the Legislature, that the state should take a cut of the money we earned. They argued that the state needed more money and more spending, and thus the Maine income tax was born. Ironically, former Governor Curtis no longer lives in Maine. He currently resides in Florida, where there is no state income tax.

As with most things the government does, the income tax started off small and seemed relatively harmless. Mainers, being charitable folks, felt that if by giving a little more they could help others, then perhaps they should pay a little more. Of course, government isn’t a charity and it quickly began taking a little more out of paychecks, and then a little bit more. Gradually, they took more and more. After all, the government had this pet project or that pet project to spend money on.
Soon mills started to close. This meant fewer people earning incomes, so the state needed to increase the income taxes to make up for the people out of work. These increases meant it was harder for new businesses to open and for existing businesses to stay open. That translated to more layoffs and more mills closing, with nothing to take their place. Suddenly those of us working at the mills didn’t feel so secure in our jobs. Our paychecks were getting smaller as the state taxed us more for our hard work.
You can see where this cycle took us – just look around. We have one of the heaviest tax burdens in the country and most of our industry has gone elsewhere. Sure, there are other factors at work, there always are, but many of those are out of our control. However, we can do something about the state income tax.
In the 125th Legislature, we started to address this issue by passing the largest tax cut in Maine history. Did you know if you were earning about $20,000 a year, the State of Maine considered you rich and taxed you at the top rate? We lowered the top rate from 8.5 percent to 7.95 percent. We also made sure that you weren’t paying the top rate on just $20,000 a year. In fact, we instituted a zero percent bracket that exempts some 70,000 low-income residents from any income tax liability.

These tax changes are only a start; we need to move towards eliminating the income tax. This will require us to spend less in Augusta and prioritize how we spend money. Nine states in the union manage to survive without an income tax, including New Hampshire.

Money that comes into the state from the income tax totals around $1.3 billion a year. That means to eliminate the tax we would have to cut the state budget by around 37 percent, which is not an insignificant amount. If we have the will to do it, we would create economic growth the likes of which Mainers haven’t seen in some time. This growth would help offset the cuts as revenue from the sales tax. Other money streams would increase due to the economic expansion.

Of course, it is also about more than just spending. It is about a view of government. Sales taxes are paid only when we choose to spend money. Income taxes take away the money we go to work every day to earn. The government didn’t work for that money – you did – and and the notion that the state gets its hands on your money before you ever see it is simply unfair.
Eliminating the state income tax will be difficult and will require tough decisions. Nevertheless, I believe the benefit to future generations of Mainers, who would rather stay here to work than move away, would be great. This isn’t something that can be done overnight, but it should at least be something we are talking about.
Prosperity is my goal in the next Legislature, and eliminating the income tax could be an important step in putting us on the path to a stronger economy.

State Rep. Jeff Gifford (R-Lincoln) serves on the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee 

Northern Penobscot Republicans rally in Lincoln

- Lee Rand Photo

June 9 - About a dozen Republican candidates or their representatives gathered on West Broadway here in Lincoln today for a rally of sign-waving, "voter meet and greet" and free hot dogs. It was a perfect day for it, as area voters stopped by to discuss issues on their minds with area representatives or hopefuls. Temperatures were in the low 70's and there was no rain in sight! Every so often a car or truck would toot their horns in passing to show their approval or support. Primary election day is Tuesday and the polls in Lincoln are open from 8am to 8pm at Mattanawcook Academy, the local high school. For a slide show of photos taken from today's event CLICK HERE.

- Lee Rand


Spokesperson Phil Merletti
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After attending the Republican Party State Convention held in Augusta on the 5th & 6th of May, many of us left with confusion after reading the large “News Media” coverage concerning the events that took place during the two day 20 hour grueling ordeal.

If we were not there to witness, with our own eyes, the games and dishonest activities of certain leadership individuals and their followers, we would not have believed what had taken place and how it was reported by staff writers and correspondents to the television and radio stations. Maybe I am old school, but I long for true “investigative Reporting”. At one time “investigative Reporting” was once the hallmark of good and accurate recording; this in turn, produced true facts and figures. But now all reporters do not investigate, instead the reporters and writers gather their information from leaflets, prepared statements and interviews with professional silver tongue leaders. Today, when the reporters turn in their correspondence, it is filtered and scrutinized to fit the agenda of the owners of the news media and released after editing, meanwhile the real or rest of the story is lost in the whispers of the wind.

As witnesses and researchers and non-partisan reporters, we can no longer allow Republicans and Democrats to hide behind the long accepted political deception and criminality. We can no longer allow them the ability to falsely label or define and diminish people, events or ideology to cloud or silence the truth. So, we will start another connected series, which we will call “TREASON?”. And once again, we will go out on a limb and throw caution to the wind. First we will define the word treason and allow the readers of each series to determine whether it is treason or criminal action or just an unfortunate political mistake that will be forgiven again.

The dictionary says treason is: a crime that undermines the offenders government; it is disloyalty by virtue of subversive behavior and it is an act of deliberate betrayal. The offence of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance.

Newspapers that covered the Convention fiasco purposely used negative semantics and labeled ‘town elected delegates’ that voted for candidates that believed and supported the Maine & US Constitutions as “Ron Paul Supporters.” However, not all delegates supported Ron Paul, but they did vote for honest, truthful, educated and loyal candidates that believed in Republican Principles. The delegates voted for candidates that supported liberty and freedom and an economic system that has lasted for 235 years. We believe that it was the Republican Leaders of the Maine and National GOP that connived the plan to discredit the delegates that would not vote for their progressives and Rino candidates.

Most newspapers quoted GOP Chair Charlie Webster, when he said: “the Ron Paul People were hijacking the GOP”, that statement started the deception; did not the Romney people try to hijack the GOP? Are not these Ron Paul delegates Republicans too? When an election is won by a small margin, is that a take-over or people who won an election too? Were the GOP Leadership sore losers? Is this not what caucuses are about?

The Bangor News headline was “GOP convention chaotic, ‘bizarre’.” If the reporter investigated, he would have seen the GOP leadership and followers were responsible for each ‘delay & disruption’ because they contested each and every motion and vote that they lost. The followers of Mr. Webster’s people said that the Convention Chair was incompetent and inadequate and that they wanted a vote of confidence, but the majority of delegates booed them until they stopped. Everything that went wrong at the convention was a deliberate act, created to stall for time; the GOP in Missouri and Arizona did the same thing. And they lost the same way! The elected Chair, Mr. Tweed was following the directions of a lawyer that was well knowledgeable and versed in ‘The Rules of Roberts”, every piece of business was passed by the lawyer, it was incontestable and Webster’s followers knew it. This was just another ploy of the followers of the GOP leadership.

Lastly, The BDN reporter also got it wrong when he said that the “new draft platform” was uncontested. This proves to me that he was not there during the discussion and debate to overthrow the GOP’s divisive attempt to destroy the platform that “Mr. Webster was quoted as saying two years ago as being radical. Mr. Webster’s office removed the real platform two months ago and replaced it with the mild and timid draft platform. We believe that this was done to prevent the delegates from comparing and making a proper choice. Our organization took two months of scrutinizing line-by-line, word-by-word to prove the deceit. This deception was finally unveiled at the convention by the original Author Ted Cowen (of Knox County) and yours truly. As a result, we still maintain the Correct Platform.

Spokesperson Phil Merletti 


May 7 - Thanks to our Penobscot County Republicans for electing me to serve as your State Committeeman at Large (at the recent Republican State Convention). Stay in touch and I'll do the same.

It has been a long weekend; even longer for some of us. Augusta's fine fire department had a very fast response to the Best Western fire at 12:15 AM yesterday morning. The motel was entirely evacuated. They had the fire out in just a few minutes, ventilated the building with large fans and we were back in after only about an hour. This was a Republican convention.
If it had been a Democrat convention, everybody would have claimed to be victims. They all would have wanted refunds. They would have sued the motel under a class action lawsuit for smoke inhalation and mental anguish, but it was a Republican convention. What did the Republicans do? They had a midnight tailgate party out in the parking lot under the full moon. They would have invited the firemen, but they were too busy. That's the difference. Republicans don't complain that lemons are sour. When Republicans encounter lemons they make lemonade.

I have been a Republican for half a century through good times and bad. I'll go away when they carry me away. I have been pretty irritated by some colossal blunders, but like my ancestors who have been planting and thinning trees for 600 years, I take the long view.

Lee , Maine 


March 26, 2012

MHPC Supports Bill to Reduce Income Tax

Surplus Revenue Would Reduce Income Tax Rate from 7.95% to 4%

PORTLAND – The Maine Heritage Policy Center has announced its support for a bill that would reduce the state’s income tax from 7.95 percent to 4 percent. LD 849, “An Act To Provide Tax Relief for Maine’s Citizens by Reducing Income Taxes,” would utilize any state surplus in revenues to gradually reduce income taxes.

Any future surplus in general fund revenue would go toward reducing the highest income tax rates over time until the maximum rate is 4 percent. A similar version of the bill was enacted in 1995, the last time Republicans held a majority in the Maine Senate. Democrats promptly repealed it two years later when they were back in the majority. Below is a statement on the bill from MHPC CEO Lance Duston:

"This is common-sense legislation and it should be enacted. The concept is simple and smart - when government takes in more than it needs, it gives the extra back to the taxpayers. It's the right thing to do and it's what taxpayers deserve."

"Progressive special interest groups and tax-and-spend democrats in the Legislature are leading the charge against this bill because it would limit their passion for taking hard-earned money from already overburdened taxpayers to further fund their pet projects."

"The bill would be one step toward reaching an affordable income tax level that would assist in strengthening the economy and would encourage more people to live in Maine year round. Along with recently enacted health insurance, regulatory, tax and welfare reforms, the reduced income tax rate would make Maine a leader in economic recovery and would make it a more attractive place to live, to raise a family or to start a business." 

Some dates for voters to remember . . .

  • Primary Election – June 12, 2012
    Presidential Election – November 6, 2012 

Hello. This is Governor Paul LePage.

By now, it’s likely you have heard about a coalition that is trying to increase your electricity bill.

This plan would mandate Maine’s electricity providers to buy quadruple the amount of expensive renewable energy.

The bottom line is it would force Maine consumers to subsidize special interest groups.

Those who would cash in on this plan make a lot of claims, but what they won’t tell you is that Maine is currently a renewable energy leader acquiring 35 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. In fact, Maine has already the highest renewable content in the nation by far.

Perhaps, what is the most disheartening aspect of their proposal is how much it will cost Mainers.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has estimated that in order to comply with this group’s proposal, ratepayers would see increases in electricity costs by $44 to $88 million dollars per year.

What these special interest groups won’t tell you is that they will be the profiteers. In a time when Maine families are struggling to pay their bills this initiative would be padding the pockets of companies with hard earned taxpayer dollars.

Maine has the 12th highest electricity prices in the nation with rates 40% higher than the national average. In 1990, Maine’s electricity rates were 16% higher than the national average.

In the last two decades, Maine people and businesses have lost ground as compared to the rest of the nation.

High electricity prices are hurting the economy and job growth.

While it is true that a few developers and generators benefit from ratepayer subsidies and temporary jobs would be created, increasing electricity prices will have a far greater negative overall impact on job growth.

If these people get their way we're not going to be able to bring business to Maine. Businesses have expressed to me on a number of occasions that Maine must lower its energy costs so we’re competitive. This is not making us competitive. We've had this plan analyzed by the energy office and by the chair of the PUC. This is a job killer.

Rather than let the free market decide, the coalition’s proposal would by-pass the legislature and put in law that certain sources of energy must be used regardless of the cost impact to consumers.

My approach is to give ratepayers the choice when it comes to energy decisions, rather than government imposing mandates on Maine people.

This year, consumers will have the choice to select more renewable energy through a new offering from the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Why not let the consumers who are paying the bills decide if they want more renewable energy?

I support all energy technologies that are economically viable and sustainable. Today, we have options that are encouraging people to reduce fuel oil consumption and protect our environment.

In fact, because people have options, households are becoming more energy conscious. We are expanding economical alternatives like natural gas, biomass and wood pellets and geothermal. Solar hot water heaters and electronic thermal storage are also working to lower energy cost.

As the technology changes – and it is rapidly – we will continue to seek environmentally friendly alternatives which will lower peoples’ and businesses’ energy costs.

But forcing Mainers to pay more right now is not the responsible approach. This coalition is picking winners and losers – they win, we lose. The reality is special interest groups will get rich while we pay higher rates.

Strengthening our economy and safeguarding our quality of life can be done, but we must not take away Mainers’ ability to choose what’s best for them.

Thank you for listening to my perspective and I encourage you to learn more about how this costly plan would affect you.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center Press Release
SEPTEMBER 13, 2011


Poll Shows Majority Support for Ending Same-Day Voter Registration, Requiring Photo ID
 Most Believe Protecting Against Fraud More Important Than Increasing Turnout 
PORTLAND - A decision by the Legislature to end the practice of same-day voter registration in Maine has the support of a majority of likely Maine voters, according to a new poll commissioned by The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC).


According to the poll, 53 percent of likely Maine voters support the Legislature's recent decision to end same-day voter registration, including 72 percent of self-described conservatives and 53 percent of unenrolled/Independent voters. 47 percent oppose the elimination, including 71 percent of self-described liberals.


Critics of same-day voter registration believe the practice makes it too difficult for municipal clerks to verify potential voters meet residency and legal requirements before voting, increasing the chances that fraudulent votes impact Maine elections. Advocates for same-day voter registration claim that ending the practice will disenfranchise voters and severely impact voter turnout.


Supporters of same-day voter registration may not have much luck with this argument. By a 55 percent to 36 percent margin, those polled believe it is more important to protect against voter fraud than it is to maximize voter turnout.


The poll also asked respondents whether they favor requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls before casting their vote, which 56 percent do, compared to just 41 percent who oppose voter ID at the polls.


"Our democracy relies on the integrity of our electoral process. Our system must be sound, and the electorate needs to have faith in the legitimacy of our election results," said MHPC Chief Executive Officer Lance Dutson. "This poll shows that, while Mainers do not think fraud is a critical problem in our state, they do want safeguards to protect against it. Maine people understand that ending same-day registration helps protect the integrity of our system, and that the common-sense measure of requiring photo identification at the polls will help ensure Maine is safe from the kind of fraud and manipulation we see in other states."


CLICK HERE to view the topline results of the poll.
CLICK HERE to view the crosstabs.


The telephone survey of 500 Likely Voters in Maine was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research on September 7, 2011. Pulse Opinion Research, LLC is an independent public opinion research firm using automated polling methodology and procedures licensed from Rasmussen Reports, LLC.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organization based in Portland, Maine.  The Maine Heritage Policy Center formulates and promotes free-market, conservative public policies in the areas of economic growth; tax and fiscal matters; health care; education; constitutional law and government transparency, providing solutions that will benefit the people of Maine.  Contributions to The Maine Heritage Policy Center are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Rep. Jeffery Gifford

May 17 - AUGUSTA – The Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry today heard testimony regarding a bill to abolish the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) and transfer its rule-making authority to county governments.

The legislation, LD 1534, is "An Act To Reform the Land Use and Planning Authority in the Unorganized Territories." The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jeff Gifford (R-Lincoln), said the measure, if passed, would free up landowners to make productive use of their property. "This would be a big economic boost for northern Maine," he said. "The people who own the land have been stifled by LURC. They have no voice in the planning decisions that affect their economy, their heritage and their future."

LURC, established in 1971, is empowered to make planning and development decisions for more than 10 million acres of private property in Maine, concentrated in eight counties. Nowhere else in the United States is there an equivalent of LURC, and Rep. Gifford said residents of rural counties resent that such control over their property is exerted by an un-elected authority from outside the area.

Lead testimony for the bill was provided by Senate President Kevin Raye (R-Washington). "In rural Maine," he said, "the acronym LURC is synonymous with heavy-handed government bureaucracy and overreach." In every other part of Maine, he noted, planning decisions are made by local residents who have a shared stake in the outcomes of their decisions. LURC, he added, "more closely resembles a colonial power able to impose its members' will on any given part of the unorganized territories."

Speaking before a packed hearing room, Sen. Raye said two recent proceedings convinced him that LURC should be abolished and its responsibilities transferred to county government. "Those proceedings," he said, "were the absolutely shameful process surrounding the proposed Plum Creek development in Piscataquis County, and the painful process surrounding the development of a new Comprehensive Land Use Plan. As a resident and a legislator from rural Maine, I was appalled at the repugnant and humiliating nature of both processes."

He went on to say, "The fact is that the LURC model is not worthy of a democratic society. It is a paternalistic anachronism of a bygone era when those who were running Augusta at the time favored central planning and felt that local government was not up to the challenge of running their own affairs."

Forty years of LURC management, Sen. Raye said, have left a sad legacy in the counties that contain most of the unorganized territories, including a 10.7 percent unemployment rate, a high poverty rate and rural out-migration that threatens the region's heritage and future.

Under the terms of LD 1534, major development issues under the jurisdiction of the Natural Resources Protection Act will be handled by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Timber harvesting and forest management in the unorganized territories will fall under the jurisdiction of the Maine Forest Service.

Also, a new Land Use Review and Appeals Board, comprised of representatives of each of the eight countries with major portions of the unorganized territories, will consider appeals of local planning decisions. Current LURC rules will carry over to the counties.

Rep. Aaron Libby (R-Waterboro), one of the Legislature's few full-time farmers, co-sponsored the bill. "That government is best that governs least, and the best government is the one closest to the people," he said. "States are better in that regard than the federal level, and counties and municipalities are better than the state. We should always strive for local control, and LD 1534 will allow for more control in the hands of the counties and the people."



MAY 3 -

Last night, the American Cancer Society sent out a blast email about Rep. Richardson's amendment to LD 1333 that contains a series of inaccurate statements. We are disappointed that the ACS would misinform its membership about the provisions of this bill, particularly since LD 1333 explicitly guards against increased rates or denial of coveragefor those with chronic illness. Direct review of the legislation will show that the ACS has no factual backup for the claims they have made.

Following is a point-by-point review of the claims made by the ACS:

"The Maine legislature is about to vote on a bill that would be devastating for cancer patients. It would allow health insurance companies to:

Deny coverage for cancer survivors due to "pre-existing conditions"
FACT: LD 1333 explicitly forbids insurance carriers from denying coverage. Every Mainer has guaranteed access to individual health insurance plans.

Force cancer survivors to pay higher rates for health insurance
FACT: LD 1333 copies strategies that have been proven in other states to reduce costs for everyone, including the elderly and chronically ill. Insurance companies cannot charge different premiums based on health, just like current Maine law.

Require cancer patients living in rural areas to drive to Bangor, Portland or Boston for treatment
FACT: LD 1333 does not put any geographic mandates on anyone, particularly cancer patients. LD1333 does allow patients access to local care, but removes restrictions that deny patients access to more affordable care in other parts of the state. This will reduce premiums charged to businesses and individuals in rural areas.

"More uninsured cancer survivors."
FACT: LD 1333 will provide more access to the 130,000 Mainers currently without coverage, by offering lower-priced health insurance plans, especially to the most vulnerable.

"Less access to cancer treatment."
FACT: LD 1333 provides wider access to cancer treatment, both through removal of geographic monopolies and through lower health insurance premiums.

"Unreasonable and unaffordable rates for health insurance."
FACT: LD 1333 allows more competition and a wider array of products for all Mainers. LD 1333 is modeled after the Idaho guarantee issue reinsurance plan. By comparison, a 40 year old in Maine pays $897 a month for the same plan that would cost $222 a month in Idaho. According to the Maine Bureau of Insurance's own analysis, this plan will reduce health insurance premiums across the board.

LD 1640 Hearing On May 17th
Governor Announces Staff Changes
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Augusta, Maine – The LePage Administration announced Wednesday several staff changes that will take effect.

Commissioner Darryl Brown will be moving from the Department of Environmental Protection to the State Planning Office. Mr. Brown has accepted the position of Director of the State Planning office, and will be a valuable asset there bringing with him decades of business experience. The Governor has asked Mr. Brown to reorganize the State Planning Office which is part of the Executive Department providing planning assistance, policy development, program management, and technical assistance to build a sustainable future for Maine's communities, businesses, and residents.

In lieu of a letter issued by the Maine Attorney General's office Wednesday, which cites a potential disqualification under Maine law of Darryl Brown, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Governor LePage has sent a letter (see attached) to members of the Board of Environmental Protection requesting all information related to their individual sources of income from 2009 onward. "Regrettably, this step is required to allow me to meet my constitutional obligations to faithfully and equitably execute the laws," Governor LePage said.

The LePage administration intends to submit legislation that, going forward, will allow qualified and experienced people to serve the State. As noted by the Attorney General, while federal law allows potential conflicts to be addressed through recusal and delegation, such flexibility is not allowed by current state law.

"It is unfortunate that Maine law is so inflexible that it can be read to prevent good people from serving. This is another example of the costs of Maine going beyond federal standards. I have discussed this issue with legislative leaders and am pleased that there is support for legislation to fix this problem," said Governor LePage.

Meanwhile, Jim Brooks, Director of Bureau of Air Quality will become Acting Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Governor LePage also announced Wednesday that former Republican U.S. Representative David Emery has been selected as Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

Mr. Emery grew up in Rockland before attending college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he received a B.S. degree in electronics engineering. He was a two-term State Representative, a four-term Congressman, and Deputy Director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Reagan Administration. After returning home to Maine, Mr. Emery served for a brief period as the Interim President of Thomas College in Waterville, Maine. In 2005, he declared candidacy for Governor in the 2006 election.

On Wednesday, the LePage Administration released that Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Phil Congdon resigned. Commissioner Congdon took the post in January.

In addition, Governor Paul LePage announced Wednesday that he intends to nominate Lieutenant General Robert Winglass (retired) as Commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor.

General Winglass graduated from Springfield College, where he earned a B.S. degree in Education; and holds an M.S. degree in International Affairs from George Washington University. General Winglass joined the Marine Corps upon graduating college and eventually became Chief of Staff for Installations and Logistics, Headquarters Marine Corps Washington, D.C. His decoration and awards are extensive which include the Distinguished Service Medal and Meritorious Service Medal.

General Winglass retired in 1992 and was elected to the Maine House of Representatives where he served for four years as a member of the transportation committee and health and human services committee. He subsequently was employed by the IBM Corporation as the Director of the Strategic Business Relationships Team in the Software Division.

"General Winglass has devoted most of his career to public service with the Marine Corps and as a State Representative," said Governor LePage. "I am looking forward to collaborating with General Winglass to increase economic stability for both job creators and workers in our State."

The Maine Department of Labor promotes the safety and economic well being of all individuals and businesses in Maine by promoting independence and life-long learning, by fostering economic stability and by ensuring the safe and fair treatment of all people on the job.

Taxation Committee Passes $203 Million Package
Income tax liability eliminated for 70,000 low-income filers

April 14 - AUGUSTA - The Taxation Committee yesterday approved major legislation that lowers Maine income taxes across the board and makes more than a dozen other changes to improve the state's tax environment. Income tax reductions would average $343 in 2013.

By a vote of 8-4-1, the committee approved most of the tax changes in Governor LePage's budget proposal and made adjustments that eliminate income tax liability for some 70,000 low-income filers starting in 2012. The plan also eliminates the state's 7 percent tax on meals served at retirement homes.

"The tax cuts are targeted to the most vulnerable small businesses and most vulnerable taxpayers, and they shore up the middle class," said Sen. David Trahan (R-Waldoboro), Senate chair of the Taxation Committee. "Tens of thousands of Mainers will be exempted from the income tax altogether."

The $203 million tax-cut package now moves to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee for incorporation into the biennial budget for fiscal years 2012-2013. Further changes to the package are possible as the Appropriations panel assembles the state budget.

The plan simplifies Maine's complicated income tax system by reducing the number of tax brackets from four to two. For the 2012 tax year the rates would be 6.5 percent and 8.5 percent. In 2013 the rates would be set at 6.5 percent and 7.95 percent. Thanks to higher exemption and deduction amounts, however, those rates would kick in at higher income levels.

In 2013, for example, a family of four electing the standard deduction would owe no income tax if their adjusted gross income is below $37,000, versus below $21,400 in the current law. There would be no tax liability for any income below $10,350.

The governor's budget proposal contained about $60 million in corporate depreciation benefits. The Taxation Committee removed the so-called "bonus depreciation" and redirected the money to an assortment of other tax cuts, such as establishing a sales tax holiday each year in October and eliminating the sales tax on fuel used in all commercial fishing vessels in the Gulf of Maine.

"We were able to spread the tax benefits more widely by eliminating the bonus depreciation," said Rep. Gary Knight (R-Livermore Falls), the Committee's House chair. "The thinking was that some of that benefit would go to companies based out of state, and we wanted to preserve the maximum benefit for Maine residents and businesses.

"We maintained the governor's recommended changes to eliminate the marriage penalty and the alternative minimum tax and to increase personal exemptions to the federal levels," he added. "Overall, this is a very positive package for Maine residents. It provides the framework to move to a flat income tax over time and makes significant structural changes to Maine's tax system."

The plan retains the governor's proposal to adopt Section 179 expensing, which allows small businesses to accelerate depreciation on investments. It provides credit for investment in public fishery infrastructure for both saltwater and freshwater. It also eliminates the Low Income Tax Credit by adding a 0 percent income tax rate on the first $10,350 of income.

Rep. Beth Turner

Sen. Elizabeth Schneider

Congressman Michael Michaud

Senator Susan Collins

Local officials praise Senator Collins' efforts

Wednesday, March 30th, 2010 - Senator Collins and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at an October 2010 press conference where they announced the DOT's $20 million investment in the Memorial Bridge replacement project.

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, today announced that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called to inform her that his department will sign an agreement with state officials guaranteeing the release $20 million in federal grant funding for the Memorial Bridge replacement project.

Ben Porter of Save Our Bridges said: "I am completely indebted to Senator Collins for all the work she has done in this process to secure and maintain this funding. I appreciate how well she has worked with members of the delegations and from the two states' Department of Transportation to make this happen."

In October 2010, DOT announced it would award $20 million to help replace the Memorial Bridge that links Maine and New Hampshire, and Secretary LaHood traveled to Maine at Senator Collins' invitation to officially announce the grant award. Senator Collins had strongly advocated for approval of the grant. In February 2011, however, the House of Representatives passed a federal funding bill that would have blocked the release of the funds. Senator Collins immediately asked Secretary LaHood to work closely with state officials to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that threatened this funding. As Ranking Member of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Collins has repeatedly raised the issue with DOT officials during hearings and in private meetings in an effort to ensure that these promised funds were secured. During a subcommittee hearing on March 10, Senator Collins again urged Secretary LaHood to help ensure that his department do all it could to cut through the red tape that was impeding the funding's release. On Monday, she met personally with Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, who assured her that DOT would continue to work to release the funding.

"I am delighted by today's announcement that this critical $20 million will be preserved that will help to rehabilitate a vital link for our states' businesses and people," said Senator Collins. "The replacement of the Memorial Bridge is crucial to the flow of goods, services and people between Maine and New Hampshire and for keeping and attracting new jobs to this region. I particularly appreciate Secretary LaHood's working so closely with me to expedite the process to guarantee this funding."

Senator Olympia Snowe







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