Maine small business owners urgently warn Sen. Collins against tax bill

Underscoring how devastating the Republican tax proposal will be for the middle class and local economies, Maine small business owners assembled in Auburn on Thursday to make a last minute plea for Senator Susan Collins to oppose the bill.

“The Senate tax plan is not ‘tax reform,'” said Leisha Petrovich, who was among those who addressed the crowd at the Lamey-Wellehan Shoes headquarters.

“It’s a massive tax cut for the wealthy and big corporations that will be paid for by cutting Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, education, and other priorities for small businesses and their communities,” continued Petrovich, who is co-owner of Norway-based Maine Kyokushin Karate. “The vast majority of small businesses will not see any change at all in their tax rate.”

What’s more, as Sarah Austin, a policy analyst with the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), noted, the GOP bill “gives a tax break to wealthy foreign investors that is three times the size of the net tax break to American families. That is wrong.”

While the local business owners spoke, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. began to debate the tax overhaul (updates here) after senate Republicans voted unanimously to do so–despite the fact that Collins and others admitted having “a lot of concerns” about the bill, including its repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

The ongoing debate added to the urgency of the moment as scores of concerned citizens and organizations issued last minute pleas for Collins to withhold her support, particularly in light of the news earlier this week that she struck a potential deal with President Donald Trump.

But experts warn that the quid pro quo brokered by Collins–which includes passage of the Alexander-Murray bill to stabilize health insurance markets and possibly another bill she co-authored which would fund “high-risk pools”–will not mitigate the damage done by the GOP plan.

“Passing this tax bill will kick 13 million people off of health insurance and trigger a $25 billion cut to Medicare–all while the [Congressional Budget Office] recognizes the Alexander-Murray plan won’t make up for losses and House Republicans continue to refuse to even consider the legislation,” Austin added.

Thursday’s press conference is the latest local effort to sway Collins from backing the bill. This week saw an outpouring of grassroots protests both throughout Maine and across the nation. With a vote expected late Thursday or Friday, concerned citizens, Democratic lawmakers and progressive organizations held a “People’s Filibuster” outside the U.S. Capitol building.

Addressing the Auburn crowd as well as Maine’s Republican senator in D.C., Will Ikard, director of the Maine Small Business Coalition, declared: “We are here to ask Senator Collins to do what is best for the economy of Maine, for the small business owners of Maine, for the people of Maine, and that is to invest in health care coverage for as many of us as possible, not strip it away from thousands of us to pay for a massive tax break for the super-rich.”

“The overwhelming majority of the tax breaks in this bill go to individuals and corporations making over $200,000 per year,” Ikard continued. “That’s great if you’re a Wall Street banker but not if you live here in Maine.”

Photo: Jim Wellehan, president of Lamey-Wellehan Shoes, stands with other small business owners and critics of the GOP tax plan on Thursday.

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