Lawmakers should temporarily raise state sales tax

Posted Jan. 19, 2010, at 6:41 p.m.

Our forefathers lived through the Great Depression and we are now living through the Great Recession. Government had a major role in pulling us out of the Depression and it is trying to do the same today.

What is government anyway? My understanding is that government is the organization to which society has assigned the tasks that society agrees need to be done, but that no one individual can profit by doing.

The farmer grows food for us to eat and the logger cuts trees for the carpenter who builds our homes, etc. They all need roads to travel on and someone to teach their children. It is more effective if the farmer, the logger and the carpenter agree as a group (society) to each chip in (via taxes) and hire individuals (the government) to build the roads and teach their children.

Society also agrees on certain rules of conduct (laws) to keep human behavior civilized so they have government provide police. Government also hires firefighters to keep our homes from burning to the ground and provide many other services.

To what extent government provides a service is the point of disagreement between the Republicans and the Democrats. My impression is that Republicans believe that citizens should do as much for themselves as possible and the best government is less government. The Democrats (again my impression) are more sympathetic and usually looking to increase the amount of services the government provides to society, which results in more government. While the battle as to exactly how many services the government should provide will go on for as long as I live, I think there is agreement for the provision of some core services.

In this time of deep recession, the government’s tax revenues have not kept up with the cost of services provided by the government in recent years. The governor and the Legislature have burned the midnight oil looking for every place they can trim government costs.

This year they are now looking at severely cutting core services in order for the governor to keep his election campaign promise of no tax increases. If the governor had not made this pledge, I think the Legislature would be considering raising the sales tax temporarily, as has been done before, to prevent core services from being gouged during these extraordinary times.

I am a Republican and do not normally suggest tax increases but as a Maine resident, I think the core services that everyone agrees society should provide are now at risk and we need to temporarily raise the sales tax.

The single person standing in the way of temporarily increasing the sales tax is Gov. John Baldacci. I know that the economies (and tax revenues) were in far better shape when he made the pledge than they are now. I wonder if he could go back if he would still make the pledge. I think if he does decide to increase the sales tax, people should understand that these are extraordinary times and should not hold it against him.

If you agree that the governor should relinquish his pledge so we may maintain the necessary core services to our state’s most needy residents, please let him and your local legislator know.

Philip Cyr of Van Buren has worked in health care management for more than 30 years.

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