More than 100 people packed DiMillo’s restaurant in Portland Thursday for The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s “Getting to Zero” discussion on eliminating Maine’s income tax. MHPC is the parent organization of The Maine Wire.
MHPC CEO Lance Dutson moderated a discussion with Sawin Millett, Governor LePage’s Commissioner of Administrative and Financial Services, and Scott Moody, MHPC’s Chief Economist and a member of Maine’s Economic Forecasting Commission. The talk focused on the elimination of Maine’s personal income tax, and the potential positive impact on Maine’s economy.
“Eliminating Maine’s income tax would result in $4,000 going back to the average family of four in Maine,” said Dutson. “We nibble around the edges of tax policy all the time, but the bottom line is, our position as one of the most overly-burdened states in terms of taxation is taking money out of the pockets of families in our state.”
“We have sort of a unique problem in Maine,” said Moody. “Fundamentally our tax dollars can come from one place, and that’s the private sector. That’s where you get new income being created. And unfortunately in Maine, we have the eleventh-smallest private sector in the country. So our real tax burden is actually much higher than is commonly assumed.”
Asked about the political will required to reduce the size of government enough to significantly reduce the tax burden, Millet cautioned that substantial spending reductions alone wouldn’t get the job done.
“I think you have to have a broad goal, and the buy-in for it. You can’t simply cut government by saying ‘we’re too fat’. The equation has two sides- there’s an income and an expenditure side, and if you can’t bend the two curves together, you really don’t have a shared objective, you don’t have a philosophy you can really sell.”
MHPC has hosted monthly policy luncheons in Portland for more than seven years. Thursday’s event drew more attendees than any of the previous luncheons. Attendees included business leaders and activists from across the state, as well as State Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney and U.S. Senate candidate Rick Bennett.
“We’re very pleased to see the enthusiasm this discussion has generated,” said Dutson. “The people of Maine are tired of half-measures to get our economy on track, and I think it’s clear they’re ready to support a major effort to jump-start our economy.”
MHPC will be releasing a comprehensive study on the elimination of the income tax in the coming months.