AUGUSTA — Americans for Tax Reform, the group founded by conservative activist Grover Norquist, urged Gov. Paul LePage and state lawmakers Friday to reject a bipartisan proposal that would cut Maine’s income tax in half by raising sales and excise taxes.

In a letter to LePage and Maine legislators, Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the proposal would result in a $700 million tax hike.

According to the bill sponsors, the proposal would yield a net $160 million in additional revenue when factoring in cuts in the income and corporate taxes, as well as the elimination of the estate tax.

Nonetheless, Norquist said, voting for the plan also would violate the Americans for Tax Reform no-tax pledge.

The pledge has been used as a litmus test for some Republican state and congressional lawmakers by a conservative movement that has called for reduced government and taxes. Norquist is known for saying that he wants government to be so small that it can “be drowned in a bathtub.”

Norquist’s letter is a response to a dramatic tax reform bill introduced in Maine this week by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. The proposal would cut Maine’s top income tax rate from 8 percent to 4 percent by raising sales and excises taxes and taxing additional goods and services.


The proposal’s backers say it would provide income-tax and property-tax relief to Mainers by levying additional taxes on nonresidents.

Norquist said the proposal is a massive tax hike.

“Tax reform must be revenue neutral,” he wrote. “A vote in favor of this legislation, as written, is a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. If the goal of the legislature is to reform the tax code and make the state more attractive to job creators, that goal should be accomplished without increasing the state’s overall tax burden.”

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, was puzzled by Norquist’s letter.

“I wonder if Mr. Norquist has read the actual bill,” said Katz, adding that nearly all Maine residents would pay less in taxes than they do today if the proposal passes.

Katz said the bill contains a number of pro-growth policies. He said Maine’s income tax now hinders economic growth.


The letter illustrates the national attention that the tax-reform proposal is expected to garner. Maine is one of five states this year to consider a significant overhaul of its tax system.

Lawmakers and affected industry groups have given a tepid response to the tax reform proposal.

Two of the tax reform bill’s co-sponsors — Reps. Gary Knight, R-Livermore Falls, and Dennis Keschl, R-Belgrade — have taken Norquist’s no-tax pledge. Knight is the bill’s lead sponsor.

LePage also has signed the pledge.

Steve Mistler — 620-7016

[email protected]

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