Democratic leaders in the State House have countered Gov. Paul LePage’s budget with their plan to grow the economy from the middle out rather than the top down.

The leaders unveiled the Better Deal for Maine, which prioritizes tax cuts for the middle class, lowers property taxes for all Maine homeowners and invests in our schools, workers and communities.  You can view the plan details here.

“Our Better Deal for Maine plan grows the economy by putting more money in the pockets of working Mainers and by making smart investments in our students and workers so we can grow good jobs and strong wages in our state,”  said House Speaker Eves, D-North Berwick.  “It rejects the failed top-down economic policies that give tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.”

Speaker Eves, Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe and Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon announced the plan at Cony High School, which is in a school district that could see a $1 million cut in funding if the governor’s budget passes.

“Mainers want a better deal for themselves, a better deal for their communities and a better deal for the economy,” said Alfond, D-Portland. “Under our plan, working Mainers will get a bigger tax cut and see investments in our public schools, roads and jobs to grow our economy.”

The Better Deal for Maine:

  • Puts more money in the pockets of Maine families: Cuts property taxes by $120 million annually for Maine residents by doubling the Homestead Exemption for all Maine homeowners and by increasing the Property Tax Fairness Credit by more than $57 million per year.
  • Invests in Maine’s future: Bolsters investment in Maine students, workers and seniors. Increases funding for K-12 education by $20 million per year.
  • Prevents property tax hikes: Increases revenue sharing to $80 million each year for local services like police, fire, and public works, while rejecting the governor’s new taxes on non-profits.
  • Targets income tax cuts for the middle class: Cuts income taxes by hundreds of dollars for the vast majority of Maine families while asking the wealthiest 5 percent to pay their fair share. Under the Better Deal for Maine, 98 percent of income tax cuts go to the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers. Under the governor’s plan, 50 percent of the tax break goes to the top 10 percent.
  • Is fiscally responsible: Unlike the governor’s budget, the Better Deal for Maine is fully paid for now and into the future.

Maine citizens — including parents, children, firefighters, teachers and seniors — joined the Democratic leaders to urge support for the Better Deal for Maine.

Kristen Cloutier, a mom, Lewiston city councilor and the city’s representative to the school committee, said she supports the Better Deal for Maine because her 6-year-old daughter and other Maine children deserve an opportunity for a good education.

“Gov. LePage’s budget will cripple the state’s ability to invest in education. It will undercut our students and young families like ours in order to give the wealthiest 1 percent another $10,000 tax cut,” said Cloutier. “The governor’s budget gives away millions of dollars to corporations while eliminating property tax relief for young families. That’s just wrong.”

LePage’s proposal will leave a $300 million hole in the state’s budget starting in 2018. With education funding making up 35 percent of the state budget, there will be no choice but to force cuts to schools.  Elsewhere in the United States, in states like Kansas and Louisiana, these kind of top-down economic policies resulted in fiscal crisis and deep cuts to schools.

Jeff Barnes, a senior who lives in Bangor and grew up in Washington County, expressed his concerns about how the governor’s budget makes cuts to vital health care programs for seniors and increases in property taxes.  Barnes was a town manager for 10 years and served in the National Guard for 13 years.

“As a senior on a fixed income, this would be devastating,” said Barnes. “I plan to stay and age in my home and community in Bangor. Already, the cost of property taxes and keeping up my home on a fixed income is a challenge.”

Mike Scott, a firefighter from Auburn echoed the concerns about the governor’s budget cuts to revenue sharing, and urged support for the Better Deal for Maine plan.

“Fires, car accidents and other terrible things happen every day. Nobody wants the call for help to go unanswered when it is your family or neighbors who are in danger,” said Scott.  “We need the Maine Legislature to do its part to make sure our cities and towns have the resources to maintain a strong public safety system to protect the people of Maine.”

In 2011, LePage promised his tax cuts would lead to strong economic growth. Yet, today the state lags behind the nation and the region when it comes to job and wage growth.

Democratic leaders will hold forums and town halls across the state in the coming weeks to hear from citizens on the Better Deal for Maine proposal.

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