August 19, 2019
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Our schools can’t pay our teachers with liberal sentiments

BDN File | BDN
BDN File | BDN
Washburn Elementary School teacher Kathy Adler leading an activity at the district's after-school program with students Colt Curtis, Mitchell Hewitt, Sean Silver, Brandon Wordsley, Katie Mendoza and Ella Snyder.

If you’re riding a horse and it dies, get off.

A new scene for Jim Grant’s allegorical book about well-intentioned but failed efforts to improve public schools is playing out in real life here in Maine.

The latest attempt by liberals to use Maine’s tax code to punish Maine’s small businesses and high-income earners is producing negative results. Maine’s Revenue Forecasting Committee projects we will now collect $28 million less in individual income tax revenue in fiscal year 2017 than we did in fiscal year 2016. Supporters of the 3 percent surtax promised a $157 million increase in revenue.

That is a $185 million miss and counting in the first year.

If this tax hike were a horse, it would be time for Democrats in Augusta to get off it and go looking for a shovel to bury the poor creature.

A narrow majority of voters approved this tax hike with the noble goal of providing more funding for our public schools. I think most Maine people of all political ideologies want our schools adequately funded. I also believe a majority of people do not want tax policy that undercuts the state budget or that drives small businesses and our most generous philanthropists to more tax-friendly states.

I can’t find the math that shows how losing revenue on this income tax hike is going to achieve the goal of greater funding for anything. But Democrats, led by House Speaker Sara Gideon and Sen. Troy Jackson, insist on staying astride this same horse.

The Democrat “Opportunity Agenda” budget promises an estimated $370 million in new spending over the next two years from just this one tax hike, but it already has a huge hole to dig out of before a single shiny penny of new revenue can be applied to that Democrat spending spree, which also proposes hundreds of millions more spending beyond just public school funding.

So, I must ask, why are Gideon and Jackson so intent that we must stay the course? We pay our teachers in dollars, not in talking points nor liberal emotion.

Every day Democrats refuse to acknowledge that this policy is not working — that it is driving away high-income taxpayers who foot the bill for more than 60 percent of the individual income tax burden — this problem will get worse.

In fact, according to state tax data, for every high-income household we lose to this tax hike, we need to add 74 middle-income households to break even in income tax revenue. Maine’s Office of Policy and Management estimates we could lose more than 1,000 of these high-income households.

If we lost half that many high-income households, we would need to add a small Maine city of middle-income households just to make up the loss.

If Democrats don’t agree to do something to fix the situation in the budget negotiations and bring their spending demands in line with what the state can afford, the conversation next time won’t be about whether we should end a tax hike that is losing revenue — it will be about who else should be paying more when Democrats run out of money.

Then, I’m afraid, that top tax bracket will start sliding down onto people who earn less and less income because the tax “fairness” supported by liberal Democrats isn’t really about looking out for the little guy — it’s about taxing and spending as much of your hard-earned money as possible.

Just a few short years ago Democrats in Augusta were fighting to continue taxing Mainers living on the edge of the federal poverty line a whopping 8.5 percent income tax rate, a higher rate than a majority of states charge million dollar earners.

We are only one budget shortfall away from Democrats pushing to go back to that.

If you have a Democrat representing you in Augusta, please call them and tell them to get off the horse. It has died.

There are better ways to fund our schools, roads and critical programs than higher taxes, lower revenue and rolling budget shortfalls. Driving away small-business owners, doctors and other professionals is no way to run a state or grow an economy.

Our schools can’t pay our teachers with talking points from Gideon or Jackson. This is about dollars, not feelings.

Jason Savage is the executive director of the Maine Republican Party.


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