Mainers rally against GOP attempt to roll back fair taxes and school funding referendum

Mainers rally against GOP attempt to roll back fair taxes and school funding referendum

Mainers who helped to pass Question 2, the referendum to funds local schools through a 3% tax increase on income in excess of $200,000, gathered in Augusta on Tuesday to demand that legislators respect the decision of Maine voters.

“In our proposed budget, we are facing personnel reductions in student supports and classroom teachers, and have had to exclude many resource requests due to pending budget constraints,” said Kim Martin, chair of the Augusta School Board, speaking at a rally outside the Capitol. “Our students deserve better. Our schools need additional funds so we can meet the diverse needs of all of our students. We have no more wiggle room in our school budget; we need the funding from Question 2.”

In addition to undoing Question 2, Governor Paul LePage’s proposed budget reduces the amount of state aid to local schools by $9.6 million compared to last year and continues to shift teacher retirement costs onto town budgets and local property taxpayers.

“It actually will raise taxes on average for everyone with income below $90,000 while giving an average tax cut of about $22,000 to the top 1% of Mainers. So, that’s where his priorities are. It’s about securing his legacy of providing tax cuts that ultimately benefit wealthy Mainers at the expense of everybody else and continuing to shortchange our schools,” explained Maine Center for Economic Policy executive director Garrett Martin on an episode of the Beacon Podcast last week.

More people voted in favor of Question 2 in November than voted for either of the two major presidential candidates, or voted for Governor Paul LePage in 2012, but despite the election results Republican lawmakers have made clear that they don’t consider the issue to be settled. Republican Senate Leader Garrett Mason recently declared that Senate Republicans “will accept nothing less than a repeal.”

Democrats have pushed back with a proposal they call the Opportunity Agenda which maintains the law passed by referendum, rejects LePage’s attempt at a new tax giveaway for the wealthy and fully funds local education and other state priorities.

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