Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling (right). Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.

Phil: Has your fine city been drinking from the Washington, D.C., fire hose of money?

Ethan: Isn’t it refreshing to finally see towns and cities receiving a portion of the water they desperately need to rebuild their economies, care for the vulnerable and educate our children?

Phil: On top of the federal fire hose, Gov. Janet Mills has decreed that the state government will fund local education at 55 percent, something that has been on the books since 2004.

Ethan: Indeed. “On the books” because the people passed it into law, twice! And two decades of legislatures and governors ignored the mandate before Mills stepped up! Now, if President Joe Biden can only get his two infrastructure bills passed, we will finally have the resources to address some of the systemic issues plaguing our state and nation.

Phil: Systemic issues like high property taxes? That would be great! By the way, how much will Portland’s taxes go down when all the money is spent this year — 4 percent, 5 percent, 10 percent?

Ethan: The final tax increase looks to be less than 1 percent.

Phil: An increase?! A fire hose wasn’t enough to satiate Portland’s tax and spend thirst to, at a minimum, keep property taxes level?

Ethan: After eight years of Gov. Paul LePage and four years of President Donald Trump, the well is pretty dry.

Phil: For a “progressive,” you sure seem unsympathetic to the plights of working-class families having to pay a tax that has no relation to what they can afford. If there was ever a time to make our tax code more “progressive” by cutting the property tax, it is now.

Ethan: Not sympathetic? I passed Portland’s first ever senior property tax relief program, which puts almost $1,000 into the pockets of those seniors who needed it most.

Phil: A worthy accomplishment, but it ain’t just low-income seniors who need some tax relief.

Ethan: Yes, the city council should expand that program to all ages, as should all communities in Maine. But I’ll tell you who does not need tax relief: Amazon, Hannaford, Pierce Atwood (huge law firm downtown), Tom Watson (huge landlord all over town), IDEXX, etc. Every time you cut taxes, these are the folks pocketing the biggest cash benefit. We should be raising taxes on these folks, and targeting relief to everyone else.

Phil: Honestly, I shouldn’t be surprised that Portland raised taxes. Even in my town of Yarmouth, new ideas were adopted for the government to implement and taxes are now going up almost 2 percent.

Ethan: Nice, making your community more desirable will definitely pay dividends down the road.

Phil: Honestly, I understand the desire by some politicians to make new investments in the community. Heck, even I voted for some worthy programs back in my day (when the program was efficient and the outcome was clear and measurable). But it was a dereliction of duty for Democrats to not allow communities to reduce taxes with this money. It’s our money and we should be able to return it to taxpayers if we so choose.

Ethan: Well, maybe if Republicans had been willing to negotiate, they could have inserted that amendment into the bill. But, that would have meant actually voting yes on something Biden proposed.

Phil: You mean like the infrastructure bill Republicans just successfully negotiated to a reasonable compromise? You see, if you actually want to achieve bipartisanship, you actually get somewhere.

Ethan: Tell that to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, would ya. In the meantime, keep that fire hose running. It’s hot out here this week.