AUGUSTA – Having fun in Maine could become more expensive if the Legislature OKs a Democrat-controlled task force’s recommendation to put new taxes on amusements.
The so-called Tax Expenditure Review Task Force is a product of the 126th Legislature’s biennial budget. To achieve “balance,” Democratic budget writers delegated the task of creating $40 million in new taxes to a committee controlled mostly by liberal Democrats and liberal interest groups.
On Monday, the tax hike task force recommended placing new taxes on amusements, such as movie tickets, ski passes, and other forms of entertainment.
[RELATED: Tax hike task force looks for $40 million in new revenue…]
“Amusement comes right to the very top of my list,” Sen. Anne Haskell (D-Portland) told the BDN. “I don’t find any good reason to continue its exemption,” she said.
The task force’s members include the chairs of the Legislature’s Taxation Committee Sen. Anne Haskell (D-Cumberland) and Rep. Adam Goode (D-Bangor), Commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services Sawin Millett, Garrett Martin of the progressive Maine Center for Economic Policy, Catherine Lee of Lee International, and Ryan Low, former commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. Two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Roger Katz (R-Augusta) and Rep. Donald Marean (R-Hollis), are also on the task force.
A top Republican was unsurprised by the task forces recommendations.
“I figured they’d go for amusements,” said Sen. Doug Thomas (R-Somerset), the lead Republican on the Taxation Committee. “That gives them the least amount of fight.”
Thomas was hotly critical of the Legislature’s decision to raise taxes via task force. He said the budget probably wouldn’t have passed if it had originally included new taxes on amusements.
“There seems to be no end,” he said. “How much of our money do they need?”
Thomas said Democrats in the Legislature are using the threat of increased property taxes to “hold cities and towns hostage” to push their agenda. “We don’t have to raise taxes. We can cut spending,” he said.
Over the summer, Thomas was part of a small group of conservative lawmakers who proposed more than $200 million in spending cuts. The group’s recommendations were ignored by both Democrats and more moderate Republicans.
“There are all kinds of places to cut the budget,” he said. “It’s disingenuous to say otherwise.”
One area where Thomas and fellow conservatives would like to see spending reductions is administrative costs in the University of Maine system.
The Democrat-backed Fun Tax could bring in up to $20 million in new revenue and would likely be joined by $20 million in other new taxes on personal services like hair cuts and tanning salon sessions.
The task force’s recommendations mirror elements of the tax reform package voters rejected with a people’s veto in 2010 — but without corresponding reductions in income taxes.
If the tax hike task force cannot convince the Legislature to adopt its recommendations, then the $40 million sum will be taken from revenue sharing with municipalities, as originally proposed in Gov. Paul LePage’s January budget proposal.
State House sources said the likelihood of the Legislature accepting the tax hikes is slim.
It would seem a better to cut at the UMaine level, have state employees pay 5% for their insurance etc a guaranteed savings than to raise taxes and possibly closing the gap. Do the progressives not remember the peoples veto last time they tried this stunt?
There are so many Rinos up there now, this will probably pass.
Does everything need to be taxed?
Can we have something that is not taxed? I think the air I breath is the only thing that is not taxed. If they could tax it, they would.
How about give us a break. Find a way to reduce the need for taxes. Cut the budget. We’ll be more than happy to sacrifice government spending in order that we can better look out for our families.
“The individual, unlike the corporation, cannot be taxed for the mere privilege of existing. The corporation is an artificial entity which owes its existence and charter powers to the state; but, the individual’s rights to live and own property are natural rights for the enjoyment of which an excise cannot be imposed.” Redfield v Fisher, 292 P 813, at 819 
“No state shall convert a liberty into a privilege, license it, and attach a fee to it.” Murdock v. Penn., 319 US 105, (1943)
Democrats hate fun.