AUGUSTA, Maine — As the legislative session winds down, lawmakers in Maine are mulling over whether to consider the Republican governor’s $90 million tax breaks proposal and a competing $52 million plan backed by Democrats.
Maine, like other states, is considering what changes to make to its own tax code in light of the sweeping rewrite of the U.S. tax code. It has led to the competing plans and fierce lobbying from businesses, including pharmaceutical company Mylan Laboratories, lottery operator Scientific Games International and the National Federation of Independent Business.
The state estimates the federal tax overhaul, which went into effect in January, will mean roughly $1 billion in federal tax cuts for Maine businesses and individuals.
Both Democrats and the governor say their proposals will make sure Maine doesn’t end up seeing a big state tax hike like some states have. Both tax break plans would rely on $140 million in surplus money to cover the loss of tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Gov. Paul LePage’s plan also would also slash the top corporate tax rate from 8.93 to 8.33 percent, double the estate tax and create a $500 child and dependent tax credit. LePage in March proposed such tax relief as part of his plan to save Maine time and money by updating the tax code.
At the same time, LePage claimed without evidence that Democrats want to hike state taxes to fund voter-approved Medicaid expansion.
“Democrats are sitting on their hands, hoping voters won’t notice they have avoided making the tough decisions that affect your families, businesses and wallets,” LePage said last week.
The Democratic-backed plan, unveiled Tuesday, provides additional property relief and credits for businesses offering paid family leave.
“We want to make sure we were benefiting and supporting working families in Maine,” Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon said.
Republican Sen. Dana Dow said a small, bipartisan group of lawmakers are working on a compromise to make all sides happy before the legislature is set to adjourn Wednesday. Lawmakers could agree to extend the session, but Republicans are against it.
If lawmakers put off any changes to the tax code until 2019, the state could miss out on $31 million in revenue from a one-time tax on multinational corporations’ foreign-held assets, said Linda Caprara, a senior government relations specialist with the state Chamber of Commerce.
The administration also says waiting would create fiscal uncertainty, which might dissuade people from moving to Maine and business owners from investing in their companies.