Maine Children, Families Lose In LePage’s Budget
Maine children and families will lose out in Governor Paul LePage’s budget, which gives tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations while shifting education costs to property taxpayers, cities and towns.
Community leaders and education officials warned lawmakers that Governor LePage’s budget would result in a $48 million tax shift onto property taxpayers and communities to fund K-12 education during a joint hearing of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs and Education and Cultural Affairs committees late Monday afternoon.
“As proposed, the governor’s budget unfortunately would further shift the tax burden in the wrong direction to local towns and property taxpayers,” said Rep. Brian Hubbell of Bar Harbor, who serves on the Education committee. “Education is key to the economic success of our state. Maine children, classrooms, and working families simply can’t afford to keep picking up an increasing share of the tab.”
Since 2010, the state has shifted education costs to municipalities by 27 percent. Governor LePage’s budget would exacerbate the shift, eliminating $196 million in revenue sharing to towns which helps fund local education. The budget also eliminates $4 million in funding for public pre-kindergarten.
Meanwhile, the budget will give tax breaks to corporations and the very wealthy. Under the governor’s proposal, the most significant tax breaks go to those individuals making more than $175,000. Corporations will see tax breaks of $60 million over the next four years.
“We know that investing in education early and often is a key to child’s future success. An investment in our students is an investment in our future. Why would we skimp on that?” said Senator Rebecca Millett, who serves on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. “It is not responsible for the LePage budget to reduce our commitment to early childhood education when it’s been shown that a dollar invested today saves $10 in the future as we heard in testimony throughout the day.”
During the hearing, teachers, mayors, parents, small business owners, the Chamber of Commerce, military and public safety officials from across the state urged lawmakers to prioritize investment in education at all levels to help improve Maine’s economic success.
Phyllis Hunter, a special education teacher from Aroostook County, told lawmakers the budget would cripple rural Maine schools and communities.
Hunter said, “I am very concerned that the reduction of the states allocations for public schools and the proposed reduction of revenue sharing will tax these rural communities out of existence.”
Public hearings on the governor’s $6.5 billion budget will continue in the coming weeks.