Houlton council urging local lawmakers to vote against LePage’s proposed budget

Posted Jan. 25, 2013, at 5:30 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Officials in Houlton fear a “catastrophic” outcome if the Legislature passes Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed 2014 and 2015 biennial budget and are urging local lawmakers to vote against it.

Town Manager Eugene Conlogue recently told town councilors that if the budget is passed, the town would lose $600,000 in state revenue sharing funds. The municipality also stands to lose $136,203 in revenue if changes are made to the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program.

Conlogue said that the proposed budget “ruins state support for municipalities.”

LePage’s $6.3 billion biennial budget seeks to suspend municipal revenue sharing, shift percentages of excise taxes on large commercial vehicles and reduce sharing of taxes on business equipment. The two-year spending plan also includes reductions in the state workforce and benefit cuts for welfare and MaineCare and other public assistance programs.

Conlogue said he worked with the town treasurer to compile an estimate to show how the proposed budget, if passed by lawmakers, would affect Houlton.

He said many local taxpayers would be heavily affected by the proposed elimination of the homestead property tax exemption and circuit breaker program for everyone except people older than 65 and veterans.

Conlogue said the town also would lose an estimated $600,000 in state revenue sharing funds. The municipality also stands to lose $136,203 in revenue if changes are made to the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program.

In 2012, the town received $97,882 from commercial vehicle excise taxes. LePage has proposed shifting those funds elsewhere, so that would be lost revenue for the town if the budget passes.

Proposed cuts to the general assistance program, Maine State Retirement and other programs also would affect the town.

Conlogue said that the results would force the municipality to increase taxes while eliminating services.

Councilors expressed concern about the proposed budget’s impact on the community. The town manager was skeptical about the entire draft.

“I cannot imagine that any of these proposals will pass in the Legislature,” he said.

The council decided to send letters to local state representatives urging them to vote against the budget.

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