Dems join Republicans to sink bill to make wealthy pay their fair share

A sign held in front of the portrait of Gov. Paul LePage during a tax fairness rally at the Maine State House in 2019. | Beacon

The Maine Legislature’s Democratic-controlled Taxation Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to kill a bill that would have made the wealthiest Mainers pay a higher income tax rate, lessening the burden on middle- and low-income property taxpayers. 

One path to raising taxes on the wealthy remains open, however, but its likelihood of becoming law is unclear given Gov. Janet Mills’ pledge not to raise taxes, even after her Republican predecessor slashed income taxes for businesses and the wealthy. 

One of the most significant tax reforms proposed this session — LD 843, a bill sponsored by Rep. Laurie Osher (D-Orono) that would have created a new top income tax bracket in Maine with a tax rate of 11.15% — was unanimously opposed by the Taxation Committee, on which Democrats have a 7-6 majority. 

Committee members voted down several tax reform proposals on Wednesday that they said did not have a reasonable likelihood of passing or gaining the governor’s signature.

Osher’s proposed 11.15% income tax would apply to income in excess of $125,000 for single filers, income in excess of $150,000 for heads of household, and income in excess of $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.

As Beacon previously reported, Maine’s current top tax bracket is 7.15% for all income over $58,000. That is the result of action taken by former Gov. Paul LePage, who pushed to lower the top income tax rate from 8.5% in a move that has cost Maine hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and has resulted in low- and middle-income residents being hit harder by property taxes while the wealthy primarily benefit from the lower income tax rate.

Osher introduced the bill at a time of stark income inequality across the country, with the richest 1% making 84 times as much as the bottom 20%. In a public hearing two weeks ago, Osher said her bill would address this issue while also generating revenue to pay for items such as education, initiatives to help adults with disabilities, and behavioral health care and other programs that have long gone underfunded.  

However, keeping the door open for some measure of tax fairness this session, the Taxation Committee also voted to table a bill sponsored by Rep. Ben Collings (D-Portland) for further deliberation. 

Collings’ bill, LD 667, would establish a surcharge of 3% on income in excess of $1 million and a 6% surcharge on income in excess of $10 million. The bill would require that 75% of the revenue generated from the measure go to funding K-12 education and 25% of the funds be spent on rural economic development. 

The bill resembles a successful 2016 ballot initiative in which a majority of Mainers voted to create a 3% tax on income over $200,000 to pay for education programs — a policy that was subsequently repealed by the legislature. Collings argued that the referendum shows Maine people support tax fairness policies.

The Mills administration has opposed both Osher’s and Collings’ tax fairness bills.

About Dan Neumann

Avatar photoDan studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North's interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago's West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan(at)

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