Inside Augusta

Governor Mills extends state tax filing deadline, deems firearm retailers ‘non-essential’ businesses

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Governor Janet Mills announced Thursday she is extending the state of Maine’s income tax filing deadline in step with action taken at the federal level. The state income tax filing deadline has now been pushed from April 15 to July 15, joining 26 other states.

“It is my hope that moving back this deadline will help provide a measure of relief to Maine people who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of COVID-19,” Governor Mills said in a statement.

Before extending the deadline, the governor said she was “disappointed” with the federal government’s action and said most state governors were not happy with the president’s decision. She delayed the decision as her administration considered ways to extend the deadline without “sacrificing the state’s finances.” The state’s fiscal year ends at the end of June, meaning Mainers would be hanging onto their tax payments beyond the date where the state needs to meet its financial obligations.

State Treasurer Henry Beck told the Bangor Daily News that there’s $1.5 billion in the state’s cash pool and he expects the state will be able to operate on those funds between April 15 and July 15. He also told the paper that it’s “unlikely” the state would have to borrow money to operate until citizens make their tax payments in July.

In addition, the governor has come under scrutiny for deeming Kittery Trading Post a “non-essential” business after releasing a new mandate Tuesday that requires non-essential public facing businesses to close. The order is in effect from March 25 to April 8.

According to Seacoast Online, Kittery Trading Post seemed to receive unclear guidance from the state following the order about its status as an essential or non-essential business.

“If we are deemed non-essential, we will close,” KTP vice president Fox Keim told Seacoast Online. “However, that’s not how we understood it.”

Kate Foye, a spokesperson for Maine’s Department of Economic and Community development, said in a Thursday statement that, “Kittery Trading Post has been deemed a non-essential business under the executive order. While we recognize the difficulty and inconvenience this creates, the intent of the order is to protect the health and safety of Maine people and to mitigate the spread of the virus. The Department of Economic and Community Development will do all it can to support Maine’s small businesses who are closed during this difficult time.”

Lindsay Crete, Governor Mills’ press secretary, told WMTW that, “Entities that primarily or exclusively sell sporting goods are not regarded as essential under…the Executive Order.”

Kittery’s town manager, Kendra Amaral, said “If [Kittery Trading Post] is deemed non-essential, we will take the action necessary to make sure they close down.”

The designation as non-essential and ordered closure comes after KTP took a number of steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its store, including implementing curbside pickup, setting up hand sanitizer in multiple locations, frequently sanitizing high-touch areas and increasing signage throughout the store. It also said it was not allowing more than 100 people in the store at one time, closing its fitting room, and putting signage up to remind customers to stay six feet apart at all times, consistent with the order issued by the governor on Tuesday.

In response, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the National Rifle Association have pressed the governor to deem firearms retailers as essential businesses during this public health crisis.

“Maine’s top officials are essentially saying that our Second Amendment rights may depend on whether or not a store sells toilet paper or what they arbitrarily deem ‘essential goods.’ Our Second Amendment rights should not be unduly restricted, protecting access to a constitutional right is essential, even in times of crisis,” House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham said in a statement issued Friday morning.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at Maine Policy Institute and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at Maine Policy. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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