AUGUSTA–Democratic leaders on the state’s budget-writing committee announced they will spearhead a measure to ensure the restoration of the state’s revenue sharing funds to local towns and municipalities. Without this measure, Maine towns stand to lose an average of nearly 62%  of state funding for their local budgets.

 “Towns across Maine continue to be stretched. Just look at this past week’s obligations of keeping our roads plowed, sidewalks salted, and our residents safe,” added Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Democratic Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “If the state reneges on its promise to our local towns then homeowners and business owners will be forced to pay more. Our towns count on this money and it is our job to keep the state’s commitment.”

 Last year, Governor Paul LePage proposed a budget eliminating municipal revenue sharing and shifted more than $400 million in taxes to local towns and communities–affecting business and residential property owners. The Legislature rejected the governor’s proposal, blunted his property tax hike, and kept the bulk of revenue sharing in place. However, in December, Governor LePage doubled down on his threat to eliminate revenue sharing to towns and even went so far as to call revenue sharing “welfare.”

 “We want our towns to know they can count on us to stave off more of the Governor’s cuts to cities and schools,” said Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, the House Democratic Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “The state’s commitment to our communities helps keep property taxes low for middle class families and business owners.”

 According to state law, revenue sharing is funded by the state’s collection of sales and income tax and must be used to offset local property taxes. For the past several years, revenue sharing to towns has been steadily decreasing. This year alone, funding dropped from $98 million to $65 million, even lower than the state’s share in 1994.

 Rotundo added, “These funds should not be used as a political football during an election year. We were fortunate to be able to put politics aside last session when it came to the budget and we hope to do so again.” The measure proposed by the Appropriations Chairs seeks to restore $40 million to local towns, of which $10.8 million would go toward tax relief to local commercial property owners and $29.2 million toward tax relief for residential property owners. Without the measure, there will be a statewide loss of $26 million in K through 12 school funding, $12 million for local town operations, and $2 million for county tax needs.

 

“Mainers want to know that a promise made is a promise kept and that the state and our towns are going to do all they can to help keep our communities safe, clean, and viable,” said Senator Hill. “I know that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle want to see us uphold our share of the bargain for the towns we represent–and because of that, I’m confident that our Republican colleagues will join us in sustaining the state’s commitment.”

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