Revival of statewide property tax considered

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Mary Adams of Garland (Source: Facebook)
Mary Adams of Garland (Source: Facebook)
Mary Adams of Garland (Source: Facebook)

AUGUSTA – Lawmakers on the Taxation Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a proposal that may give state government the power to collect property taxes, but with only a hollow concept draft to consider, it’s unclear what the bill would do.

Democrats say the concept bill, L.D. 369, would provide funding equality between schools in poor and wealthy areas. But Republicans see the bill as a throwback to the failed statewide property tax bill that Maine voters repealed in the 1970s.

“This bill is a phantom bill, it’s just a title and sentence. And yet we’re having a hearing on it,” said Mary Adams of Garland, the lone citizen who testified against the bill.

Adams is the chair of Maine’s center-right coalition and a longtime crusader for fiscally responsible government. She fought against the statewide property tax in the 1970s, leading a petition effort which resulted in the repeal of the tax on Dec. 5, 1977. She recalled the turmoil the tax caused in Maine cities and towns, and said reviving the long-defeated tax would be a terrible idea.

Adams urged the committee to hold a public hearing on the bill once it was actually written – something Taxation Committee co-chair Sen. Anne Haskell (D-Cumberland) said may or may not happen.

“I hope there is a committee hearing, because there is nothing here,” said Adams. “It would be a disservice to the people of Maine if they did not have the chance to speak about the bill once they know what’s in it.”

“It sounds very much like you’re considering a statewide property tax like what was in the School Finance Act of 1973,” she said.

Haskell would neither confirm nor deny that L.D. 369 is an attempt at enacting a statewide property tax and declined to answer Adams’ questions on the matter. (Those testifying at committee hearings are typically not allowed to ask questions of lawmakers.)

L.D. 369 is sponsored by Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) and co-sponsored by House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham), Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland), Sen. Rebecca Millett (D-Cumberland), Rep. Walter Kumiega III (D-Deer Isle), and Rep. W. Bruce MacDonald (D-Boothbay).

Johnson first introduced his bill to the Legislature’s Education Committee in April. At the time, his testimony emphasized the need to bring about an education funding model similar to that of Vermont.

“We must redesign the way Maine raises revenues necessary to fund the costs of providing a good education,” said Johnson.

Johnson’s reference to Vermont’s education funding model largely confirms Adams’ suspicion. Since 1997, Vermont has assumed sole responsibility for funding local education via a statewide tax on property.

“Act 60 of 1997 (subsequently amended by Act 68 of 2003) vested the state with sole responsibility for funding education, instituted a new state property tax system, and created the Education Fund. All tax revenue to support public education in Vermont, except for some federal funds, is raised through state taxes,” according to VTTransparency.org.

Adams concluded her testimony with strong warning: “Whatever you do: stay away from the state-mandated property tax, because if you do pass it, you’ll have me on your doorstep. And if I die, my husband has promised to have me stuffed and put in the Hall of Flags to make sure that it never comes back again.”

14 COMMENTS

  1. The Democrats must stay awake nights thinking of ways to “Tax and Spent” or should it be “Spend and Tax” their way out of every financial bind. How about “Cutting and Saving’ . Now there is a new concept.

  2. Folks need to read the bill sponsor testimony from last April referenced in this link: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getTestimonyDoc.asp?id=6870

    Steve: Do you think you could track down that “Picus Report” and publish a link to it?

    And while we’re at it, let’s take a look at the Maine Constitution, which reads as follows:

    Article VIII.
    Part First.
    Education.

    Section 1. Legislature shall require towns to support public schools; duty of Legislature. A general diffusion of the advantages of education being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people; to promote this important object, the Legislature are authorized, and it shall be their duty to require, the several towns to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public schools; and it shall further be their duty to encourage and suitably endow, from time to time, as the circumstances of the people may authorize, all academies, colleges and seminaries of learning within the State; provided, that no donation, grant or endowment shall at any time be made by the Legislature to any literary institution now established, or which may hereafter be established, unless, at the time of making such endowment, the Legislature of the State shall have the right to grant any further powers to alter, limit or restrain any of the powers vested in any such literary institution, as shall be judged necessary to promote the best interests thereof.

    As an exercise, readers should calculate how much higher their property taxes would be if the Constitution were followed. Here in Brunswick, they’d go up about 35%.

    Simply take GPA out of the school revenue mix, and replace it with property tax revenue. Time to understand the real costs, rather than assume money grows on trees in the backyards of benevolent government lords.

  3. Democrats who claim the cut in Maine Revenue Sharing passed in the last state budget law is resulting in more “regressive” local property tax rates hikes are now supporting a local property tax to raise money for the state to redistribute. I thought they were against “regressive” local property taxation. What’s going on here?

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  5. The bill says it is from the 2013 legislative session. I did a research project as a downloadable time line to support my independent research efforts. ( Preserving The American political Philosophy Blog)The Timeline is called A Maine Citizen’s Journey Through The Statutes of Transformation. The transformation is from a state to a corporation. You can get it by sending a contribution ( minimum !0.00 suggested) to
    mackenzie@andersenstudio.com via PayPal.

    Im my research I found two bills that attempted to align property taxes with statewide public education. One passed and one did not.

    The one that passed says:

    An Act To Stabilize Education Funding by Reducing the Impact of Changes in Property Valuation

    Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:
    Sec. 1. 20-A MRSA §15672, sub-§23, as amended by PL 2005, c. 2, Pt. D, §36 and affected by §§72 and 74 and affected by c. 12, Pt. WW, §18, is repealed and the following enacted in its place:

    23. Property fiscal capacity. “Property fiscal capacity” means:
    A. Prior to fiscal year 2014-15, the certified state valuation for the year prior to the most recently certified state valuation;
    B. For fiscal year 2014-15, the average of the certified state valuations for the 2 most recent years prior to the most recently certified state valuation; and
    C. For fiscal year 2015-16 and each subsequent fiscal year, the average of the certified state valuations for the 3 most recent years prior to the most recently certified state valuation.

    It’s wonderful to hear that the corporation of Maine has a compartmentalized concern for social equity since they turn their long wooden noses down at the entire bottom half of the economy- below the Median Household Income- when it comes to redistributing taxpayer money to private capitalists.

    In the same session that the legislature claimed concern for equity in education they unanimously passed the Expanded and Improved Seed Capital Tax Credit that multiplied by eight the rate by which the corporation of Maine can transfer private investment capital risk to the general taxpayer. The MVF Blog ( renamed from SEGF) explains that investors do not like to put their profit at risk. Apparently the Maine Venture Fund believes that the Maine taxpayer is fine with rick as long as they have no profits to gain-. The solution of the Corporation of Maine’s concern for private capitalists disdain for risk is to arrange for the general taxpayer to refund the investor up to 60% of his investment- the lion’s share for the beast of burden!. Since the private investor stands to only lose as little as 40% of his investment- he will be more apt to take risks in investing in Maine- and what does that tell us?

    Its so nice the the legislature is so concerned about social equity- even if it is so blatantly and conveniently compartmentalized! What saints!

    But I have long known that the Corporation of Maine wants to grab control of property taxes from municipalities to use in their RISKY investment banker’s schemes.

  6. I see a date on this article- maybe it’s old because the web just seems to update dates and it’s hard to find teh actually publishing date- But Just to note that the bill mentioned in this article has already been voted “ought not to pass” in 2014.

    However note who is sponsoring it- in my case my state reps, Johnson & MacDonald-Vote them OUT!

    Here is where it says this bill was voted down:

    http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?ld=369&PID=1456&snum=126

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