November 19, 2018
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Maine families deserve better than Congress’ flawed tax bills

George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN

With responsible planning and smart investing today, our state can prosper now and into the future.

This is especially true when it comes to our children and families — the very pulse of our communities and state. If Maine children get what they need today, they will grow up to be active and vibrant participants in our community, economy and even our government.

Lawmakers in Congress, however, have passed two destructive and irresponsible tax bills that will have disastrous consequences for hardworking Maine families and ultimately put Maine’s future at risk. Fortunately, there is still time for Maine’s congressional delegation to do right by Maine people.

The House and Senate tax plans essentially provide a broad package of tax cuts geared toward the very wealthy and large corporations at the expense of working families across the United States. In fact, both bills would actually raise taxes for many Mainers and add $1.5 trillion to the deficit.

For example, under the Senate tax plan, an estimated 172,000, or one in three Maine households, would actually see their taxes increase. This means additional strains on family budgets for almost no benefit.

[Angus King: I’m all for tax reform, but this isn’t it]

What’s worse — adding to the deficit leads the way for deep cuts to federal dollars coming to Maine as well as to programs that promote economic opportunity, such as Medicaid, nutrition assistance and public education, and those that meet our commitment to seniors, such as Social Security and Medicare.

The Senate bill also undermines the health and well-being of Maine people by reducing access to quality, affordable health care coverage. By eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, the Senate bill would leave an estimated 13 million people without health care coverage, destabilize the individual health insurance market and cause individual market premiums to increase. In Maine, this would raise a family of four’s marketplace premium by $2,350.

Research shows that children benefit when their parents have health care coverage. When parents lose health insurance, their children tend to go without insurance even if they are eligible coverage through other programs. Children also benefit from having healthy parents to raise them, and insured families are less likely to experience financial ruin because of illness or injury.

This attack on health insurance coverage follows on the heels of Maine voters’ overwhelming passage of a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid coverage for individuals from low-income households. Mainers have made themselves pretty clear when it comes to health care — they want more access to quality, affordable health care coverage, not less.

[Maine’s children are counting on Congress to reauthorize this vital program]

It is troubling and disheartening that Congress can allocate $1.5 trillion in tax cuts mainly to corporations and the very wealthy when lawmakers have failed to find the resources necessary to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program — more than two months past the deadline. The insurance program provides quality, health care coverage to more than 18,000 children in Maine and nearly 9 million children nationally so they remain healthy and developmentally on track.

Although the program’s funding expired in September, it is still not a priority in Congress even as states begin to run out of money.

Congress is now reconciling differences between the Senate and House bills. There is no fix to these deeply flawed bills. This process is certain to result in a bill that is damaging to Maine and to the nation’s future.

When time comes for a final vote, Maine’s congressional delegation should vote in the best interest of Maine children and families. In July, Sen. Susan Collins stood up for health care when she voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act. She should stand up once again for Maine’s children by opposing these tax bills.

A stable and secure future for Maine starts with smart investments in our children and families. Mainers work hard and deserve a responsible tax plan that reflects our values and our priorities.

Pamela Day is a retired child welfare professional and a member of the Maine Children’s Alliance board of directors.

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