Sen. Susan Collins cast her vote in favor of the recent tax reform bill. The decision sparked outrage among some Mainers. A few went to her Bangor office to hold a sit-in. Others went to the streets and yelled that the senator “ let the people of Maine down.”
Those protesters are mistaken.
By voting for the bill, Collins stood up for Mainers. The reform will drive economic growth and boost wages across the state.
The bill delivers a huge, direct tax cut for middle-class workers. It nearly doubles the standard deduction, which means the roughly three in four Mainers who don’t itemize their deductions will see significantly lower tax bills. The bill also doubles the child tax credit to $2,000.
These changes will slash many working families’ income tax bills to zero.
The bill also gives workers a massive indirect tax cut by reforming the corporate tax code. Right now, America’s corporate tax rate of 35 percent is the highest in the developed world. As a result, many American businesses have moved headquarters to other nations or put their money in offshore accounts — actions that subsequently move jobs abroad.
To encourage businesses to come home and hire Americans, the tax bill cuts the corporate tax rate to 21 percent — a level in line with many of our European competitors. The bill also allows businesses to immediately deduct the cost of new equipment. That’s great news for all businesses, especially for the more than 140,000 small businesses in Maine.
This increased investment will spur hiring and boost wages. The Tax Foundation estimates the cuts would create nearly 4,000 jobs in Maine and raise the average middle-class family’s after-tax income by more than $2,200. The bill will increase long-term economic growth by 3.7 percent, according to the Tax Foundation.
The bill will also simplify the tax code — a relief for people and employers alike. Each year, U.S. households and businesses spend nearly 9 billion hours complying with filing rules, according to the Tax Foundation.
Collins used her negotiating prowess to insert several provisions into the bill that particularly benefit Maine. One of her most influential amendments allows homeowners to continue deducting up to $10,000 property taxes on their federal returns. The Senate originally planned to scrap that tax deduction.
Such a move would have hurt many Mainers, who face the 11th highest per capita property tax burden in the nation. In Bangor, the average property tax rate is 1.29 percent of assessed home value. The national average is 1.21 percent. Twenty-four percent of taxpayers in Penobscot County deduct their state and local taxes. Without Collin’s amendment, many of them would have seen their taxes rise.
Collins also convinced her colleagues to increase the medical expense deduction. This deduction allows people with large medical bills to subtract that spending from their taxable income. More than 18 percent of Mainers are senior citizens — a higher percentage than every state except Florida. Many of these folks have high medical expenses and depend on the deduction to afford quality health care.
Another amendment from Maine’s senior senator will allow teachers, police, firefighters and charity workers to continue making tax-free “catch-up” contributions into their retirement accounts.
Collins voted to cut working families’ taxes and kick the economy into high gear. She deserves a standing ovation — not a sit-in.
Jacob Posik is a policy analyst at The Maine Heritage Policy Center and the editor of The Maine Wire.
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