AUGUSTA – Liberty-minded Mainers gathered at the State House Tuesday for an Economic Freedom Rally featuring speakers from The Maine Heritage Policy Center, Americans for Prosperity-Maine, and Maine Taxpayers United.
The event focused on tax, regulatory and spending bills winding through the 126th Legislature, including the so-called Gang of Eleven’s proposed tax increase. (Recommended: Gang of Eleven Touts Tax Increase…)
“The politicians and the bureaucrats and the lobbyists aren’t used to rallies like this,” said Carol Weston, state director of Americans for Prosperity – Maine (AFP).
“When the Left storms the State House with their buses, their bull horns and their purple shirts, it’s to scream their demands,” she said. “They yell for more spending, more taxes, more regulations and more welfare. But we’re all here today for a different reason.”
Weston said that limited government is the only route to restoring and protecting economic freedom in the state of Maine. “We know that when it comes to government, less is best,” she said.
More than a slogan or platitude, Weston said ‘less is best’ is a governing philosophy too many lawmakers forget. “Less regulations means more jobs… less welfare means more independence and pride… less government means more economic freedom,” she said.
She said reading through this Legislature’s list of legislative proposals was like reading how-to manual on growing government. “Politicians serving in this building have bills that would expand sales taxes, impose new regulations, raise income taxes, and massively expand the broken Medicaid system.”
Scott E. Lansley, political director of Maine Taxpayers United, took aim at the Gang of Eleven. “It absolutely amazes me some of the terminology these guys come up with to disguise tax hikes and new spending,” said Lansley.
“Senator [Dick Woodbury (I-Cumberland)] has come forward with a term – ‘budget neutral’ –I have no idea what this means,” said Lansley. “But I do know their plan increases spending and is not ‘revenue neutral’ by any means,” he said.
“We’ve already been through this. And as the great Yogi Berra said, it’s déjà vu all over again.”
J. Scott Moody, CEO and chief economist at The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC), said the current tax plan put forward by the so-called Gang of Eleven is a good example of how lawmakers grow government and reduce economic liberty.
“The Gang of Eleven is an appropriate name for this group, because what their proposal amounts to is highway robbery,” said Moody. “It is a net tax increase on Mainers. Now is not the time to raise taxes on Maine’s struggling families and struggling small businesses,” he said.
Moody said he finds it ironic that only two years ago lawmakers debated a similar bill that was overwhelmingly defeated by Maine voters. “Voters realized that we can’t simply rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said. “This bill takes it a step forward and actually punches holes in the Titanic’s hull.”
Moody said that Maine’s economic problem is not one of under taxation, but of overspending. “First and foremost, we need spending reform and spending reduction. Simply taking the problems inherent in our large income tax and moving them over into a large sales tax is not the answer,” he said.
Moody said the Gang of Eleven’s assertion that the increased taxes will be exported, i.e. paid by out-of-staters, is just conjecture. He said it is impossible to predict exactly how much of the new tax burden would be borne by out-of-staters under the Gang of Eleven’s proposal. “But I can tell you what will happen… We’ll export Mainers to New Hampshire.”
Moody estimates that Maine loses $2.2 billion in retail shopping to New Hampshire each year, which translates to hundreds of millions in lost tax revenues for state and local governments. He said new and expanded taxes on goods and services in Maine will only exacerbate a trend that has for years sapped Maine’s economy and tax coffers.
“I suggest we rename this bill the ‘New Hampshire Retail Development Bill.’”
The public hearing for the Gang of Eleven’s proposed tax increase is scheduled for Friday morning at 10:30AM in the State House.