Democratic lawmakers have rejected a Republican proposal to reduce taxes for low-income Mainers, setting the stage for a one-party budget that will spend more than $10.5 billion — the biggest biennial budget ever passed in Augusta.
Budget negotiations broke down Friday after Republican lawmakers offered a proposal to reduce taxes from 5.8 percent to 4.5 percent on the first $23,000 of earned income.
The proposal would have allowed Mainers to keep $200,000,000 of their own money, but there appears to be no appetite among Maine Democrats for reducing taxes–even when the relief would primarily benefit low- and middle-income Mainers.
Sen. Rick Bennett (R-Oxford) and Rep. Sawin Millett (R-Waterford), two Republican members of the budget-writing committee at the State House, said Republicans negotiated in good faith and were surprised by the development.
“I am extremely disheartened after this evening’s developments,” said Bennett.
“Republicans have been involved with the budget negotiations for weeks,” he said. “We brought forth our priorities, namely, remembering the Maine taxpayer by giving structured income tax relief targeted toward low and middle income earners. This was flatly rejected by the other party. It is stunning that the Democrats could not even agree to give back $200 million to Maine taxpayers out of a $10-plus billion budget.”
Millett, the House Republican Lead for the Appropriations Committee, said he was expecting a different outcome.
“In addition to much needed tax reform, Republicans also prioritized workforce participation and restructuring welfare benefit programs that are currently keeping people from going back to work,” said Millett. “We offered several iterations of our priorities, came back to the table numerous times in an attempt to find common ground. I am deeply disappointed with the end result.”
“A one-party budget does not protect the best interests of Maine citizens,” he said.
House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) said Republicans handed Democrats a draft of the tax reform amendment they wanted included in the budget before leaving town Friday evening.
Faulkingham joined WGAN’s Inside Maine Saturday morning to share his perspective on the budget talks.