For Chamber, corporate tax loopholes trump accountable elections

For Chamber, corporate tax loopholes trump accountable elections

Yesterday, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce publicly opposed Question 1, the citizen initiative to reduce the influence of big money on state elections. Rather than take issue with the strengthening of public financing, or the increased disclosure requirements, they attacked the initiative’s funding mechanism, making the spurious claim that the corporate tax loopholes it would close are vital to “grow the economy and create jobs.”

The first problem with the Chamber’s argument is that it ignores the plain language of the referendum. The initiative clearly directs the state government to “prioritize[e] for elimination low-performing, unaccountable tax expenditures with little or no demonstrated economic development benefit.” As we’ve recently seen with the tens of millions of dollars lost in the New Market tax credits scam, there are plenty of loopholes that can be closed without harming business owners’ ability to grow the economy and create jobs.

So why does the Chamber oppose policies that have otherwise overwhelming support from Americans? Because some of their largest business members take advantage of these tax loopholes. Large corporations eat up the vast majority of US tax breaks. This makes sense because only the biggest corporations can afford the high-dollar lawyers and accountants necessary to take advantage of the holes in our tax system.

Maine Small Business Coalition board member Bettyann Sheats, speaking in Augusta

Maine Small Business Coalition board member Bettyann Sheats, speaking in Augusta

The problem is that the Maine State Chamber is supposed to be – and claims to be – an advocate for all businesses, regardless of size.

Small and medium-sized businesses, however, don’t support this agenda. By wide margins, they support closing wasteful tax loopholes and campaign finance reform.

“For small businesses like mine to compete effectively, we need equal access to our government. We need politicians who are working for us and all the people of Maine – not just their wealthy campaign contributors,” said Bettyann Sheats, owner of Finishing Touches Shower Doors in Auburn, at a press conference where the Maine Small Business Coalition endorsed Question 1

Maine small business owners want a fair elections system and a fair tax system. Large corporations want to maintain their ability to buy politicians and a tax system that’s easy to take advantage of. Yesterday, the State Chamber showed which side it’s on.

Photo of businesses along Boothby Square in Portland via Flickr/Corey Templeton.

About author

Will Ikard
Will Ikard 6 posts

Will Ikard is director of the Maine Small Business Coalition, which represents more than four thousand small business owners across Maine.

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