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Hypocrisy: Dems Tout Bi-Partisanship in 2011 Tax Cuts but Support Question 2

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As if it comes as any surprise, there is something remarkably hypocritical about a stance many liberals running for re-election in Maine are taking on a particular ballot question this year.

Question 2, known as the “Stand Up for Students” referendum, would impose a three percent surtax on household incomes earned over $200,000 to “fund public education” in Maine. In other words, Question 2 creates an additional three percent tax on earned income in our state, which was already taxed at the tenth highest rate in the nation in 2015.

With top earners in Maine facing a tax rate of 7.15 percent in 2016, a three percent tax increase on earned income would put Maine’s income tax among the highest in the country for top earners – the third highest rate nationally behind just California and Hawaii at 10.15 percent.

The specific language of the law reads: “Do you want to add a 3% tax on individual Maine taxable income above $200,000 to create a state fund that would provide direct support for student learning in kindergarten through 12th grade public education?”

The hypocrisy begins to unfold in viewing the mailers and other documents liberal candidates have been circulating in your communities. Those who have been around Maine politics for awhile, like Emily Cain, Justin Alfond and Seth Berry, love to tout their bi-partisan involvement in the passage of LD 1043, also known as the bill that created the largest tax cuts in Maine’s history in 2011.

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I applaud their efforts, as our state truly needed these cuts.

But for longtime liberals running for re-election, their endorsement of Question 2 would undo the very tax cuts that they’re claiming to have championed for hard-working Mainers.

Don’t just take it from me, take it from the Maine Beacon – a liberal news outlet operated by the Maine People’s Alliance (MPA), who did all the hard work for me in exposing the hypocrisy. Thank you MPA, I wholeheartedly appreciate it.

On Sept. 21, the Beacon published an article titled: “Study: Question 2 will undo tax breaks for the wealthy, raise $159 million for Maine schools,” which is both riddled with misinformation and perfectly lays out the hypocrisy surrounding this issue.

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The article, written by Mark Sullivan, cites research by the “non-partisan” Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), which advocates, employs and endorses nearly every liberal ideology and policy stance you can think of. Ironically, Sullivan is the communications director of MECEP.

In the Beacon article, Sullivan writes:

“MECEP’s research and analysis concluded that the proposed three percent tax on income above $200,000 dedicated to K-12 education will increase state funding for schools, promote tax fairness, help promote greater opportunity for low-income students, and level the playing field between property-poor and property-rich towns.”

I love the plug for the organization under which you’re employed, Mark, but your assertions hardly hold water and the biased analysis is clear as day – specifically the claim that Question 2 will “promote greater opportunity for low-income students, and level the playing field between property-poor and property-rich towns.”

Clearly Sullivan and MECEP didn’t follow the money, because under Question 2, nearly 85 schools and districts will receive no additional funding.

As remarked by former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci on WGAN radio last week, Question 2 simply pushes the newly generated revenues through our broken funding formula for Maine public schools, meaning handfuls of towns and students will receive nothing from this initiative.

And what do you know – the schools and districts that will receive nothing under this proposal are among the poorest in the state, exactly the opposite of what Sullivan, MECEP and other liberal outfits in Maine are proliferating in their mailers, at your door and on social media.

Even the organization that gathered the signatures for Question 2 to appear on the ballot, Citizens Who Support Maine’s Public Schools, pushes this lie on their own website where it states: “Question 2 will help make sure that every student has a shot at a quality education, regardless of his or her background or ZIP code.”

Wrong. Question 2 makes it so the quality of public education you receive in Maine is determined entirely by your zip code.

Additionally, the Beacon article concludes that “Question 2 will make Maine’s tax code fairer by increasing taxes only on the wealthiest Mainers,” meaning your liberal representatives who voted for the cuts in 2011 will be undoing their “hard work” by stumping for Question 2, literally lying to your face about their stance on taxes.

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Alfond, Cain and Berry all voted in favor of LD 1043 in 2011, with Cain and Berry casting their votes in the House and Alfond casting his in the Senate. Only 24 total members of the Maine Legislature voted against the bill, 19 in the House and five in the Senate.

Berry is running now running for the District 55 House seat and Cain is running against Bruce Poliquin for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat in the House of Representatives. While Alfond is leaving the Senate, he has endorsed Question 2 and Ben Chipman, who will undoubtedly fill the vacancy.

In 2011, Berry served as the lead Democrat on the Joint Standing Committees on Taxation. I’m willing to bet his mailers boast of this, but what are his and other Democrats up for re-election’s stance on Question 2?

In total, 52 Democrats in the House and nine in the Senate voted in favor of the 2011 cuts. So before anyone running for re-election knocks on your door, read their mailers and see if they brag about their bi-partisan efforts in 2011, and then ask them if they endorse Question 2. The roll calls for LD 1043 can be found here for the House and here for the Senate.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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