AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate has given initial approval to a bill to reduce the state’s income tax rate to 4 percent.

Senators voted 23-12 today to approve an amended bill calling for the reduction. It relies on revenue surpluses initially to pay for the reduction. The bill faces further votes in both the House, which takes it up next, and Senate.

Senate Republican Leader Jon Courtney of Springvale says the bill in effect returns revenues that exceed certain thresholds to taxpayers through lower rates. Courtney says it still allows enough revenues for state government to grow.

Opponents say the bill is reminiscent of tax-cap referendums that have been rejected by voters in recent years.

Democratic Sen. Phil Bartlett II of Gorham argued it puts Maine’s tax policies “on autopilot.”

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