If people think the wrangling over taxes and spending in Washington and in Augusta has nothing to do with them, they should think again when they open their property tax bill or have a bumpy ride on Eustis Parkway in Waterville.

The ongoing federal and state budget debates affect us all, right where we live.

First, the property tax bill. It’s higher this year because of decisions made in Augusta, which are in turn are often affected by decisions made in Washington.

Maine is supposed to return 5.1 percent of the state sales tax to municipalities, what’s called “revenue sharing.” This year the state sent us only 3.5 percent. For Waterville, that meant losing $880,000, slightly little more than the property tax increase.

The state government had diverted revenue sharing money into the general fund because Maine is experiencing a budget crisis and no one will talk about increasing taxes.

Federal funds early in the Obama administration helped ease the situation, but no further aid to the states is expected from Washington any time soon because the federal government is facing its own budget crisis.

Here’s a specific example of how that all trickles down to us. Even though Eustis Parkway is a state-aid road because it’s a connector of two busy streets, and even though everyone acknowledges it’s fallen into total disrepair, Augusta had no plans to fix it.

Waterville property tax dollars are paying for the paving that is happening now. In 2009-10, a lot of broken-down roads in Maine were fixed with money from Washington, which improved transportation for households and businesses while providing desperately-needed jobs for construction workers. Now that money has stopped.

That’s where the ongoing budget debates in the two capitals — state and federal — come in. Public appropriation and taxation policy can seem mind-numbingly complex, but the basic outlines are simple enough: We figure out what we want to do collectively, then we decide how we’re going to pay for it.

Unfortunately, in recent years we’ve made the first decision, but failed to make the second. On the state level, the upshot is we do less — less of even important things, such as sharing revenue with hard-pressed municipalities, fixing broken roads and schools and supporting quality education and care for our youngest generation.

The federal government has a greater capacity to borrow than the state, so insufficient revenue has been made up in part with debt. Now, however, the federal debt has grown too large, and a day of reckoning has arrived.

Actually, it’s more like six weeks of reckoning. Between the fall election in early November and the end of the year, the federal government must come to some big decisions about how to raise and spend our money. We have heard similar pronouncements before, but unlike the past, it will be hard for Congress and the president to kick the can farther down the road.

On Jan. 1, tens of billions of dollars worth of tax increases and spending cuts will happen automatically unless our leaders act. They can act only if each side gives a little. A grand bargain must be reached.

Maine is lucky to have as its U.S. senators two women who will play key roles in this momentous debate and the eventual deal.

I urge Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to pursue a balanced approach that, in addition to prudent spending reductions, includes increased tax contributions from wealthy individuals and international corporations.

For instance, the Bush tax cuts on family income greater than $250,000 should be allowed to expire on schedule.

Every two years, we have the privilege of voting. We should ask questions of all the candidates asking for our vote in November.

No doubt they all will promise to lower our taxes, but the important question is which taxes, and are they really lowering our taxes or just passing on the state’s or the federal government’s responsibilities?

Because all these budgets decisions are connected, adequate federal revenue eventually can lead to more money for the state, lower property taxes for us and provide a smooth ride on the rest of our potholed-streets.

That can happen, however, only if we are paying attention to more than a candidate’s promises and we exercise the privilege of voting in November.

Karen Heck is mayor of Waterville.

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