We value our independence. And there’s nothing that jeopardizes that independence like the threat of losing your home. Unfortunately, that’s a threat faced by too many of our fellow Mainers.

Hello, this is Senator Eloise Vitelli. Thanks for tuning in.

It’s an honor to have returned to the Maine Senate, to work on behalf of my neighbors in Sagadahoc County and Dresden. If there’s one thing I hear about more than anything else, it’s the crushing weight of property taxes.

Unlike the income tax, which increases or decreases along with your ability to pay, the property tax is indifferent to changing economic realities. And it has skyrocketed so quickly that many people are at risk of being priced out of their homes. Those include low-income families fighting to get back on their feet, and seniors living on fixed incomes.

The property tax is assessed at the local level, but it’s Augusta’s failures that have caused this drastic tax increase in recent years. Bad policy from the State House has shifted taxes away from the wealthiest in Maine and onto the backs of homeowners.

That’s why I’m dismayed that Gov. Paul LePage’s budget proposal sets the stage for even more property tax spikes.

First, he takes direct aim at property tax relief with a plan to eliminate the Homestead Property Tax Exemption for anyone under 65 years old. In Bath, that would cause an average tax increase of $414 on 1,265 households. In Topsham, more than 1,500 households would pay an additional $359 in property taxes every year. Even in Arrowsic, where I live, we would see an average increase of $299 for affected families.

Then, he cuts state funding for public schools, pushing more of the cost of education onto local communities. After that, he cuts state funding for critical local services that Mainers need, like public safety and road and bridge maintenance.

We can’t tell students that school’s cancelled because there’s less money this year, just like we can’t layoff police officers and firefighters because of cuts from Augusta. So all the governor’s cuts have the same result: Increased local property taxes.

What’s worse, the governor would use all those cuts to pay for new giveaways to the rich. All told, his budget increases taxes on the bottom 80 percent of families while handing over more than $23,000 in tax cuts to the top 1 percent.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the governor said recently that it is the wealthy — not the rest of us — who are the “solution” to our state’s problems. But Mainers want a fair tax system and a budget that puts our state on a path toward success. The wealthy don’t need a new tax cut, especially at the cost of our neighbors’ and our elders’ independence.

Luckily, the budget is out of the governor’s hands, now. Democrats will reject his upside-down priorities for the state, and will focus on real solutions to ensure opportunity for all Mainers, not just those at the top.

We’ll fight for property tax relief, public schools and our communities. We’ll fight so that families don’t fall behind when a child or an elder gets sick. And we’ll fight to equip Mainers with the skills and training they need to thrive in today’s economy.

That’s how we’ll turn the governor’s budget around, so it benefits all Mainers, not just a lucky few.

This is Senator Eloise Vitelli. Thanks for tuning in.

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