Serious economists agree that fair, affordable tax policies are needed to produce jobs, surpluses and a strong middle class.

Yet like the Bush cuts of 2001, the LePage tax shifts of the last two years are taking Maine dramatically in the wrong direction.

That is why I was disappointed to see my colleague, Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, attacking Democrats for “selective amnesia” regarding the massive, overall tax shift enacted recently at the State House.

Katz mentions cuts to income taxes, but that tells only part of the story. An excellent lawyer, he selectively describes the impact of one tax measure, yet forgets the impact of more than 50 other tax bills he helped enact.

As any Mainer knows, you don’t measure a forest by describing a single pine.

So here is the big picture: Maine’s middle class and working families are in for a world of hurt, while a select few are in for a major new tax windfall.

According to Maine Revenue Services, when we look at all state and local taxes (income tax, sales tax, property tax, etc.) a single, minimum-wage parent earning $12,000 per year pays 17 cents on each dollar, while someone earning more than $350,000 per year pays just 10 cents on each dollar.

In other words, the single parent pays nearly twice the overall, state and local tax rate paid by those earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year or more.

This is neither the American way nor the Maine way. In the farming town where I grew up, we think people should pitch in according to their ability. We don’t wait for our neighbor to stack two hay bales every time we stack one. If we did, we’d never get our hay in.

Yet thanks to failed, trickle-down policies first in Washington and now in Augusta, the economic shift is getting worse.

Because of the many tax measures forced through the 125th Legislature by the majority, the few people who earn $350,000 and up will receive an income tax cut of $3,000 next year. In future years, this windfall will increase to more than $21,000 per year.

In contrast, the single parent and tens of thousands of similar Maine households will receive an annual income tax cut of $8 per year, growing in future years to less than $9.

At the same time, they will receive a property tax increase starting in the hundreds.

This shift to property taxes is real, is growing and was passed over the objections of Maine towns, cities and schools.

Enacting more than 50 tax-related bills in all, the Republican-controlled Legislature has so far paid for a little more than a tenth of the total long-term tax cuts it has set in motion. The rest has been left to future leaders and taxpayers.

Of the tiny fraction paid for, $150 million over two years, more than two-thirds was simply shifted from funding for Maine towns and property tax refunds. As a result, the “largest tax shift in Maine history” already has cost thousands of Maine homeowners more than $400 apiece.

Maine homeowners and renters, schools and towns can expect a greater pinch as the shift continues.

As the Maine Municipal Association wrote with respect to LD 849, a TABOR-like tax measure passed despite the “nay” votes of most Democrats and even some moderate Republicans, the bill puts long-term “income tax reduction as the Legislature’s unquestionable top priority even as property tax relief resources are being withheld.”

It didn’t have to be this way. At every turn, Democrats offered alternatives that were rejected.

For example, every House Republican present voted against my simple compromise plan for the two-year budget: give tax cuts to 16,000 more Maine families overall, while reducing the top-earner tax cuts.

The compromise involved no new taxes or costs, and would have helped every Mainer by restoring funding both to towns and to property tax and rent reductions.

If not reversed, the largest tax shift in Maine history will benefit a handful in the short run, while hurting us all in the long run.

After the November elections, it is my hope that we can put partisanship aside, and focus instead on measures that restore economic equality and economic strength to the state we all call home.

Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, is the lead Democrat on the Taxation Committee. He represents Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Richmond and the Unorganized Territory of Perkins Township.

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