By the usual standards, members of the Appropriations Committee did a good job last week. They have come up with a balanced budget proposal that reverses some of the worst proposed cuts in Gov. LePage’s spending plan, raising revenue from temporary increases to the sales tax and meals-and-lodging tax and protecting the state’s property tax relief programs.

But this was not a year in which the usual standards applied. Instead of meeting in the middle, the appropriators instead should have stepped up and modernized the state’s tax code, moving Maine away from the traditional left-vs.-right battles about funding state government.

This year’s negotiations were an opportunity for big changes. The governor’s budget, which paid for an income tax cut with major decreases in state aid to cities and towns, was universally reviled. Municipalities would have had to make up the loss in revenue by raising property taxes, cutting services or, in most cases, a combination of the two.

The Appropriations compromise leaves too much of the governor’s budget intact. It still cuts municipal revenue sharing, though not by as much as LePage had proposed, and moves Maine toward a system proposed by LePage under which the state shifts responsibility for teacher pensions onto local school districts.

Simply refining the governor’s ideas was not enough. Even before the governor’s budget, there are problems with the current system: It taxes the wrong things too much and doesn’t tax the right things enough or in some cases, at all.

We are a tourism state with a high number of part-time residents, but we charge visitors and part-time residents less when they are here than most of them pay in sales and meals tax when they are at home. At the same time, we tax residents’ income and property at rates much higher than they would pay if they moved to another state.

Our state is in a constant budget crisis that forces stingy spending on schools, higher education, roads and bridges and other investments in our future.

There was a plan available to the Appropriations Committee that would have reset that balance.

It was drafted by the Gang of 11 — five Democrats, five Republicans and one independent — and marries ideas from all over the political spectrum. The plan would raise about $160 million in new revenue while reducing the tax burden on most residents. It would do this by cutting the taxes that residents pay, such as income and property tax on a homestead, while increasing the taxes that visitors and part-time residents pay, such as those on sales, restaurant meals, lodging and second homes.

Accomplishing this would require some fancy maneuvers. The Gang of 11 proposes raising the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent and eliminating almost all the exemptions, including the ones for food and heating oil. They propose giving low-income and middle-income residents a refundable tax credit for the extra sales tax they would have paid, but nonresidents would pay the full freight.

A similar arrangement would be made for property taxes, increasing the homestead exemption to $50,000 of assessed value from $10,000 and beefing up the circuit breaker property tax relief program. Both would benefit residents only.

The plan also would cut the top income tax rate nearly in half, from 7.95 percent to 4 percent; and eliminate the estate tax, which critics say would benefit only the rich. But in its totality, the Gang of 11 approach would give the state a more stable and predictable revenue flow, heading off the kind of rash and haphazard social service cuts we have seen over the last five years — which have hurt the poor disproportionately.

This kind of reform is a lot to ask for in the final days of a legislative session, but it’s the kind of reform the state needs. Instead of splitting the difference, the Appropriations Committee should try something different and look to tax reform as the way to balance this budget.

Fortunately, it may not be too late. If this budget fails to get two-thirds support from both houses of the Legislature, or if the budget is vetoed by the governor, lawmakers will have a chance to start over.

There is a better way to balance the state’s budget. Lawmakers should seize the opportunity.

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