2017-06-22 / Editorial

Disagreements occur over state budget

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

You may hear news coming out of Augusta about disagreements and lack of compromise around the state budget. I sincerely hope that by the time you read this we will have a deal. I think we all just want to see cooperation, but it has been tougher this legislative session.

I’ll try to sum up the areas of disagreement. In contrast to prior years when we’ve had contentious budget battles and even government shutdowns, the state of Maine is doing well. Revenue is solid. Difficult cuts are not really necessary. That might seem like it would make it easier to find agreement than in years with revenue shortfall, but that hasn’t been the case.

The major area of disagreement is education funding. Question 2, which passed in last November’s election, imposed a new tax on joint household incomes more than $200,000 per year and dedicated the new funding to education. That amount sounds like a lot of money, and it is – only about 16,000 households in the entire state have that level of income. The problem is that 11,000 of those households have that level of income because they own small businesses. These businesses are often contractors, drywallers, electricians and other trade professionals whose business income is reported as personal income. They could also be dentists or doctors. That is the issue. Funding education is good, but preferentially taxing small businesses to do so is bad – we seem to have general agreement across both parties on those points, but not a solution.

Greater education funding is clearly needed. I am pushing to see that increased. Not only does this meet the state’s statutory education funding obligation of 55 percent, it also provides property tax relief, since the share of school funding not covered by the state is covered by property taxes.

I know that this kind of thing makes you want to throw your shoe at your television, and I agree. Watching politicians continue to wrangle and dig in their heels rather than come to the table with a genuine interest in bipartisan compromise is maddening. As a moderate, every day I continue to try to bridge the gap across the aisle. I will keep you up to date in these pages, and am always honored to hear from you at martin.grohman@ legislature.maine.gov.

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature. Outside the legislature, he is chair of the Solid Waste Commission, and hosts a podcast for entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show, available on Apple Podcasts. Sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com, call 283-1476, or facebook.com/ repgrohman.

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