June 19, 2018
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A sad sign of the times: Ads tell you to buy before taxes go up

George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN
By Michael Thibodeau, Special to the BDN

A car dealership is currently running an ad on Maine radio stations, encouraging new buyers to make their purchase before the state sales tax increase takes effect on Oct. 1.

While I applaud the business for doing what it can to bring in customers, I think the incentive the dealership is using is an unfortunate sign of the times.

On Oct. 1, Mainers who didn’t pay attention to what was happening in Augusta during the past legislative session are in for a rude awakening. Many of the everyday products we buy will be more expensive, due to the Democrat-controlled Legislature’s unwillingness to make tough decisions and instead, push the cost of more government spending onto you, the taxpayer.

Part of the newly enacted two-year budget includes a 10 percent increase in the state sales tax and a 14 percent hike in the meals and lodging tax. Beginning Oct. 1, those buying a $20,000 car will shell out $1,100 in state sales taxes — 10 percent more than they would pay now. If you go out to eat at a restaurant, prepare to pay a $6 sales tax for a $75 meal. For a $125 hotel room, the tax will shoot up to $10 per night. In both of these cases, that’s 14 percent more.

We have been reassured by those who pushed for the sales tax increase that this is only temporary; these tax increases will “sunset” in June 2015. That’s when a future Legislature will decide whether to keep the new sales tax rates in place, or return them to their current levels. Hopefully, the Legislature will be under new leadership then and opt for the latter.

But for now, there’s no relief in sight. A special committee is meeting in Augusta this month, looking for $40 million worth of new revenue. That’s bureaucratic code for yet another tax increase.

The sales, meals and lodging tax increases are one of the main reasons I did not vote in favor of the two-year budget. This is a spending package that puts the priorities of state government over those of Maine families by asking them to contribute more of their paychecks to pay for a government that refuses to live within its means. As I told my fellow lawmakers during the previous session: Maine doesn’t have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem.

In the coming days, you may be exposed to other ads encouraging you to buy products here in Maine before the tax increases kick in. Perhaps they should include the following disclosure: “Brought to you by the Democrat-controlled Maine Legislature.”

Sen. Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, is the Maine Senate Republican Leader.

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