Daily Catch

‘Opportunity Agenda’ Out of Touch with Working Mainers

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Around the state, liberals are touting Maine Democrats’ “Opportunity Agenda” as the solution to our state’s budget woes. There’s no need to go the town halls they’re holding; the details of their plan are out. The only opportunities Maine liberals seek are those which take more money from the pockets of hard-working Mainers.

The document on the Senate Democrats’ website states that, “Maine Democrats believe that Maine has a bright future.” This is great to hear, because we are now harvesting the rightful fruits of Governor LePage’s leadership and conservative budget priorities that have led to a record-low unemployment rate, increases in private sector job growth and the lowest number of government employees in our state’s history. Combined with work-for-welfare policies for able-bodied adults that radically shifted thousands of Mainers from the public dole to private payroll, we see that when government steps aside, Maine’s future is bright indeed.

However, according to Maine liberals, our future is brightest when the state steps back in, grows in size and pledges every penny of projected revenues to new spending. They have no intentions of reducing the burden on Mainers by allowing them to keep more of their own money through income tax reductions.

While criticizing the governor’s tax plan for supposedly “picking winners and losers,” the left offers nothing more than a spending spree that does exactly that. Since the $264.8 million in additional tax revenues they are projecting isn’t enough, they’ve even thrown some bonds in the mix to ensure the indebtedness of Maine’s future generations.

Claiming their plan will “fully fund public schools,” the liberals’ spending agenda offers no incentive for schools to use tax dollars wisely. Instead, it calls for maintaining the status quo by funding duplicative infrastructure and redundant administrative costs while continuing the class warfare strategy of targeting successful Mainers with a punitive tax.

If Maine liberals were serious about reforming our schools and putting students and teachers first, they would offer short-term financial incentives for communities with decades long declines in enrollment to consolidate resources, and also back the governor’s proposal for one statewide teacher’s union contract. This would provide immediate relief to the acute stressors on the system and would also foster a long-term strategy for an efficient and modernized education model with better paid teachers.

After raising taxes on successful Mainers without any focus on reforming our antiquated schools, liberals are also offering to take on additional state debt to write off a portion of students’ college loans while refinancing remaining student debt. Let’s be clear: instead of offering tax relief from state revenues, liberals want to use your tax dollars to leverage loans to pay for debt others freely chose to take on, and also make you liable for default on the remaining debt. There’s no doubt who the winners and losers are here.

One of the biggest claims liberals are making about the Democrats’ budget is that it offers “the largest property tax cut in Maine’s history.” It is unclear if they are naïve or purposely dishonest here, but the answer shouldn’t sit well considering they’re asking us to trust them with spending all this money.

In Maine, property taxes are controlled at the municipal level alone. Increasing revenue sharing from 2 to 3 percent is simply a gimmick to give them cover on this controversial issue while doling out less dollars than the annual salary raise in most municipalities. It also ignores recent studies that have shown that revenue sharing actually encourages increases in municipal spending rather than tax relief.

The second leg of the alleged property tax relief comes from a proposal to increase the homestead exemption from $20,000 to $30,000. In terms of dollars collected in taxes, this is another old gimmick of claiming relief while doing nothing to reform government spending. Instead, your municipality will raise your mil rate to cover 50 percent of the loss on this increase and the state will collect the rest in your income tax to reimburse your municipality for the remaining tax loss.

While no budget is perfect, Gov. LePage  put forward a framework that would create fairness to all Maine taxpayers and continue the reforms that have put Maine’s economy on the road to prosperity by reducing the scope of government and its involvement in our daily lives. Instead of building on success, liberals in Maine have chosen to reverse course with big government and empty promises.

If Maine liberals really want a “Maine where those working hard can get ahead and stay ahead,” they should realize this only occurs when government steps out of the way.

About Nick Isgro

Nick Isgro is the Mayor of Waterville, Maine. Nick is a native of Waterville where he resides with his wife and five children.

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