If there were ever any doubt that Democrats in the Maine House of Representatives are willing to kill tax conformity if they don’t get their way on raiding $22 million from the state treasury for another round of school subsidies, we now have a smoking gun that should remove any lingering doubts. A recent email exchange exposes the Democrats’ strategy of holding tax conformity hostage to the spending spree. And it appears they’re prepared to shoot the hostage if legislators refuse to pay the ransom demanded.
State Rep. Linda Sanborn (D-Gorham), a member of the Appropriations committee, has advised a local school superintendent that the only way to get additional funding for his district is to pressure the state Senate to go along with House Democrats’ hijacking of tax conformity.
Sanborn told the superintendent that the Democrats’ proposal to paunch the Rainy Day fund to the tune of $22 million has no chance of passage unless it’s tied to the tax conformity bill that everyone agrees must pass so that Maine people can file their state tax returns before the filing deadline. She told him his funding request is dependent on politics, and the politics of the moment at the Statehouse require that the Senate be pressured into coupling these unrelated issues.
“Legislators must be told to pass the combined bill and now, not later,” she wrote. “You can explain the urgency of schools needing to plan their budgets now.”
The message was clear: turn up the heat on Senators, or you can kiss your funding request goodbye.
This is exactly the sort of corrupt back-room Washington D.C.-style politics that has earned the contempt of the voters.
Bear in mind that the state Senate already passed a clean tax conformity bill by a unanimous vote, without objection by a single Democrat. When the bill arrived in the House nearly three weeks ago, Democrats attached a poison-pill amendment sponsored by Rep. Ryan Tipping-Spitz that guts full conformity and raids the Rainy Day fund to the tune of $22 million. That spending proposal has never seen the light of day in a public hearing.
State Senator Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, Chair of the Education Committee, proposed a clean, separate bill to address school funding issues through the committee’s process of public hearings. But Democrats on the Legislative Council voted unanimously to block consideration of Sen. Langley’s bill, effectively killing the proposal. Sen. Langley’s bill was designed to look at specific schools and specific funding shortfalls, not a broad-brush infusion of more money. It’s the funding formula that needs a comprehensive re-evaluation; the last thing we need is another dollar dump into a broken funding formula.
Clearly, Democrat legislative leadership at the Statehouse is determined to continue holding their hostages — Maine taxpayers — until they get their way on spending tens of millions of dollars from the already depleted Rainy Day fund. Rep. Sanborn’s email correspondence is the smoking gun in the hostage crisis at the colosseum on the Kennebec.
It’s time for Senate Democrats to tell their colleagues in the House to stop playing politics and pass a clean tax conformity bill: Take a straight up-or-down vote on the bill we sent you three weeks ago, and be done with it.
Let the hostages go.