Sen. Dow attempts to shield wealthy from taxes, undo Question 2
When I wrote last week about members of the state Legislature working to undermine the will of Maine voters by rolling back key provisions of the referenda passed into law in 2016, I was not expecting or hoping that it would become an ongoing series.
And yet, here we go again.
This past week, Stand Up for Students, 2016’s Question 2 that ensured a full share of state funding for our public schools through a 3% surtax on personal incomes earned in excess of $200,000 per year, is facing a complete gutting at the hands of Republican State Senator Dana Dow of Lincoln, who has submitted a bill that would do away with the surtax entirely in favor of a hodgepodge of alternative revenue sources aimed at bringing the state to the voter-mandated 55% funding threshold for our schools.
Inelegantly titled, “An Act To Eliminate the 3 Percent Surcharge on Certain Income and Provide an Alternative Funding Source for the Fund To Advance Public Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education,” or LD 571, would seek to cover the losses incurred by killing the referendum law –up to an estimated $157 million per year– by levying new taxes on things like Amazon purchases, recreational marijuana sales, and Airbnb stays, while shielding the state’s wealthiest from bearing a surcharge on any income earned after grossing their 200,000th dollar that year.
Senator Dow, a former schoolteacher who narrowly defeated Democratic incumbent Christopher Johnson after literally building his platform around bringing the state into compliance with the 55% mandate, now stands to imperil the one solid policy solution that could ensure that the state finally hits the mandated threshold of which he, himself has been a vocal champion.
This disingenuous attack on education funding should not, and likely will not, go unnoticed by constituents of his district, who stand to lose nearly $5 million a year in education funding with the elimination of the surtax on the wealthy. Ultimately, if the surtax is eliminated, middle class property taxpayers will once again likely be left holding the bag for the funding shortfall, one that will be exacerbated by continued attacks on state revenue sharing by the LePage administration.
In his statement accompanying the announcement of the bill, Senator Dow wrote that “[w]e have heard the people’s message loud and clear in Augusta; funding our schools will continue to be a top priority.” And yet he seems to have missed the heart of the bill passed into law by voters that he is seeking to dismantle: We do not simply want state education funding to finally hit the 55% threshold, we want it done in a way that will ensure that everyone pays their fair share and ends the practice of working and middle-class property taxpayers from continuing to subsidize tax cuts for the wealthy.
Public hearing for LD 571 is scheduled for Monday, March 20 at 1:00 PM, in room 127 of the statehouse.
Sen. Dow official photo.
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