Senator living the financial struggle

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 02, 2008, at 9:32 p.m.

TRENTON, Maine — A three-term Democrat who is seeking re-election to the Maine Senate acknowledged Saturday, three days before Election Day, that he and his wife are delinquent on approximately $20,000 in their property taxes.

Dennis Damon, who is co-chairman of the Legislature’s Marine Resources and Transportation committees, said Saturday that he, his wife and his three grown children have developed a plan by which they hope to pay off the debt. He said they hope to pay the $10,000 or so they still owe for 2006 by this Thanksgiving, and to pay off the remainder by early next summer.

“It’s a lot,” Damon said of the tax bills and of what his family owes. “There’s no question about it.”

Damon said the annual total property tax bill that he and his wife pay for four properties in Trenton comes to about $10,000. That includes their primary home on Oak Point Road, a home on Route 3 that Bonnie Damon inherited from her parents, a boathouse near Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, and a woodlot. The Damons’ three grown children also are partial owners of some of the properties, he said.

Dennis Damon said the ultimate solution would be to sell the properties, but he and his family would like to avoid having to do so if they can. He said he and his wife, who is a teacher, have a combined gross salary of about $60,000 a year. His salary as a state legislator, he said, is about $11,000 a year.

His family’s property tax situation shows that he has firsthand experience with the issue of spiraling property taxes, Damon said, which is one of the more pressing financial issues many Mainers face.

“I’m not doing it in a vacuum,” he said, referring to the Legislature’s recent efforts to address the issue. “I’m living it. I know the struggles people have trying to pay their property tax bill.”

Damon said he feels it is likely that someone drew his property tax situation to the media’s attention in an attempt to influence the outcome of his re-election campaign. The weekly Mount Desert Islander newspaper on Friday published a story about Damon’s tax debt on its Web site.

He noted that his property status is public information, and that his wife’s name is listed in Trenton’s 2006 and 2007 town reports among the names of residents who are behind in their property tax payments. Why the information would come out four days before the election, he said, is curious.

Damon said the story reminds him of an attempt to discredit him in 2002, when people opposed to his first state Senate bid circulated information critical of his use of a county-owned credit card when he was a Hancock County commissioner.

Damon said he used the card in 1999 for his business when he was in Florida and had no other payment options for renting a moving truck for one of his clients. He eventually was exonerated for using the card in part because there was no policy or law against doing so, he said. The client on whose behalf the card was used, he added, immediately repaid the county with a check, which the truck rental company had declined to accept.

“This is that same kind of thing,” Damon said about his tax situation being publicized.

Damon did not accuse his Republican opponent, Mark Remick, or Remick’s campaign of having a role in his tax situation making headlines. He said that from the contact he has had with Remick, he does not believe his opponent would be involved in any effort to discredit him in such a manner.

Contacted Saturday evening by phone, Remick said he hopes someone wasn’t trying to influence the race by getting the media to publish stories about Damon’s tax situation. He said his wife, Traci Remick, and Bonnie Damon used to teach together at Trenton Elementary School.

“She’s a wonderful lady,” he said of Bonnie Damon.

Remick, who also lives in Trenton, said he does not owe back taxes or have any liens on his property. Neither his nor his wife’s name appears in Trenton’s 2006 or 2007 tax reports on lists of uncollected tax liens.

Voters can assign whatever degree of importance they want to Damon’s tax situation, Remick said, but the most important issues in the race are about decisions made by the Legislature in Augusta, not about either candidate’s personal finances.

“He’s a neighbor and he’s a friend,” Remick said. “We differ on policy.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2008/11/02/politics/senator-living-the-financial-struggle/ printed on July 29, 2014