Letter: Make yourself heard on 3% income surtax

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State Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, has a chance to improve Maine’s economy and also support K-12 education. When voters cast their ballots last November, a very slim majority passed a 3 percent surtax on personal income above $200,000 to raise salaries and benefits for teachers. What very few voters understood was that the new tax would fall on the shoulders of Maine’s small business owners. Of the 16,000 tax filers that have income above $200,000 in Maine, 11,000 are small businesses that file taxes as personal income. Voters saw a chance to put more money into education. I do not believe they wanted to stick it to Maine employers.

Let’s look at some towns that voted against the tax in the Forecaster circulation area: Yarmouth, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gray and North Yarmouth all opposed the surtax. These are the communities represented by Sen. Breen, who earned a seat on the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. This committee will likely decide whether to repeal the 3 percent surtax and find a more equitable source of education funding elsewhere. I hope readers in Sen. Breen’s District 25 will respectfully share their thoughts with her this week. Her leadership is essential to funding education without micro-taxing the family businesses of Maine. So, what do you think and what are you going to do about it?

Tony Payne

  • David Craig

    Anyone surprised that residents of wealthy towns that already have good schools would vote against a 3% surcharge on incomes over $200K? Please look beyond your own town and region and consider what is best for the whole state, especially for towns which might not have the wealthy tax base to support better schools. That’s what I expect Senator Breen will do.

    • yathink2011

      You expect her to take more money away from others, and give it to you. At least your honest.

      • David Craig

        How did you derive that conclusion from my comment? I was saying exactly the opposite. Those of us in well funded towns should not ignore the needs of others.

        • yathink2011

          Let’s see, you just made my point, that’s how I was able to derive that conclusion from your comment. Well funded Towns are well funded for a reason. It has to do with hard work, being somewhat successful, zoning, code enforcement, paying higher property taxes, building better schools, hiring better teachers. Instead of there being an incentive for people to work harder and climb the ladder, the Government , and others, want to drag those at the higher rungs on the ladder down, make everyone the same. When everyone is the same, everyone is mediocre. Everyone gets a participation trophy. No one excels.

  • Chew H Bird

    Actually, much of what is given to a wide variety of charities and service organizations is done so by people whose tax returns show more than 200k in income. Rotary clubs, Lions, Elks, food pantries across the state, educational activities that are on the chopping block like sports, music, and art, are often gifted by individuals making more than 200k. People who have the financial means to create and grow small businesses will also incur this tax and they will be less likely to invest in Maine because of it.

    Rather than single a particular economic demographic for a specific fund, why don’t we focus on reducing overhead costs associated with our education system? Why don’t we encourage people with higher incomes to relocate to Maine and bring their investment capital with them? Targeting a specific higher income demographic is the wrong way to make our education system more effective for our students and more efficient for our taxpayers. Targeting a specific income group teaches our children to put their hand out instead of working for success. Everything about this higher income tax is wrong from a values perspective.

    • Just Sayin’

      Investment capital?! That’s not going to do the schools in Maine any good. They’re there to educate, not to be profit-generating investments!

      If the wealthy want to ‘invest’ in the future of America’s youth, a good step would be to fund public education by accepting the new law rather than fighting it to keep your money from going to public education.

      • Chew H Bird

        In my opinion, a better way to raise additional revenue for public education is to grow the tax base. If we can entice more corporations to come to Maine there will be more jobs and if there are more jobs more people will come to Maine to fill them, expand Maine’s diversity and grow our tax base.

        • Just Sayin’

          First off, is this the right’s answer for any questions? I’ve been hearing this same song for decades now, and funnily enough, some how the money freed up by slashing regulations and taxes on corporations rarely seems to find its way into wages in the local community.

          I’d also like to point out that more people coming to Maine for jobs means more children coming to Maine with them, and a greater burden being placed on the public education system. You’re raising both supply AND demand at the same time with this idea, and you’re expecting a positive change in quality.. how?

          It’s also mightily convenient that this sort of approach puts off getting more money into the system -now-, for one that will take years to trickle down to the schools. Hardly seems an effective strategy to improve public education in the state.

          Side note, I’m disappointed to have my last comment have been censored from appearing here, when I used no vulgar languages or personal attacks. One wonders why it was disallowed.

          • Chew H Bird

            I don’t have all the answers, (but I wish I did)… Education budgets have been increasing at a higher rate than most other factors for a couple of decades with no significant measurable improvement in the end result. Jobs have been slowly buy surely leaving the state, the workforce is getting older, and young people are moving away for a variety of reasons from better pay to more diverse life experiences.

            We seem to have a shortage of school age kids who want summer jobs and we seem to be seeking immigration to provide seasonal work. I have no answers but to continue throwing money at an education system that is not improving results, and at the same time watching the tax base shrink, seems to be more of the same formula. I think we need a new approach based on actual numbers instead of paid special interest demographics, and not based on liberal or conservative philosophy, but on common sense. Perhaps I ask too much.

          • Just Sayin’

            Not to beat a dead horse, but if you don’t want an answer based on conservative philosophy, why did you drag out their oldest and most commonly repeated trope in the first place?

            One of the best ways to draw more youth here would be to have something to offer that youth. Good schools are absolutely a good way to bring families to Maine. Look at what happened with Falmouth a few years ago: they built a new school and have good teachers, and they were over capacity at the new school within a year for all the families that moved there to take advantage of it.

            I wish I had the easy answers here too, but I think the best approach involves making sure that the schools get the money they need to provide a safe environment, nutritious meals, and quality education materials.

            Past that I’d work on reducing class sizes, giving teachers more leeway in their approach to topics (As opposed to rigid national programs), and increasing teacher wages to attract more quality teachers.

            If we make Maine more family friendly we’ll get more new families wanting to move here, and that will get us more young workers.

            That seems like it more directly addresses the problem, rather than easing things for corporations and hoping that somehow they’ll draw more youth to Maine.

          • Chew H Bird

            Young adults leaving the state contribute heavily to Maine’s aging population and lack of young workers. Obviously many young people want to “see the world”, but I think we need entice them to return to start a family and the only way I can think of it to offer jobs that appeal to modern skills, with higher rates of compensation.

            I was ready to leave permanently at the age of 23 had it not been for family issues. My brother left after college and never returned, (except for summer vacation). Same with many others in my generation who are now approaching their 6th decade of life.

          • Just Sayin’

            I agree that we would benefit from making Maine more attractive to young adults, but I find the approach you first mentioned inadiquate to do so. First and foremost that slashing business taxes and regulations won’t make them eager to move here because they can afford to pay people better.. It will make them more eager to move here because their bottom line will be smaller and they’ll make greater profits. This may bring some jobs to Maine, but they are not likely to be the sort of high-paying jobs that would attract workers. As you’ve said, there are lots of jobs in Maine right now, and not enough people here willing to fill them.

            If we want to attract youth to live and work here in Maine, we have to make it attractive for someone of their demographic to do so. Maine is a state that offers relatively low wages and has a high cost of living, particularly when it comes to housing costs. The combination is deadly, because people largely can’t afford to live here on a blue collar wage without a big commute. That’s great for people looking to live rurally, but that doesn’t describe most of the youth we’re talking about.

            If we raised the minimum wage, there would be a lot more space for people to earn enough to live locally. If we worked to lower rental costs or improved housing assistance programs, we’d see more young people be able to afford to live where the jobs are. If we had a more robust and reliable public transit system more people could do away with car ownership and use the savings to afford living in Maine’s more urban areas.

            One of the big reasons that we lose young adults from Maine is that we price them out of the state unless they choose to live at home.

          • Chew H Bird

            I agree with the difficult demographics that are further exasperated by geography. However, rent prices in Maine are significantly less than in most urban areas which is where many young people flock.

            It seems funny to me that four young people can cram themselves into a tiny New York apartment with a stove the size of an easy bake oven to be able to afford to live in the city, yet are unwilling to do the same to live in Maine.

            The value of mass transit is easily seen in metropolitan areas, but the massive deficits of Amtrak between Portland and Brunswick are unsustainable.

            The bottom line is places like NYC, Chicago, Boston, DC, LA and other large population areas have a larger choice of jobs, “hot” music, art, theater, and other creative opportunities, and are seen as highly desirable to young people. Until we have an “environment” that brings youth to Maine spending on infrastructure or propping up lower rents with subsidized dollars makes no sense, (the equivalent of getting dressed up with no place to go).

    • Moishe the Beadle

      “Why don’t we encourage people with higher incomes to relocate to Maine and bring their investment capital with them?”

      I believe it’s because the state will tax their income at a rate of 8.5%

  • TonyPayne

    Sen. Breen’s email address is cathy.breen@legislature.maine.gov

  • Moishe the Beadle

    Teachers in public education are generally more liberal (12-1 liberals vs. conservatives in higher education by some sources) and are typically members of a union They tend to vote for Democrats and believe in multiculturalism, big government and re-distribution of wealth. This ideology is being pushed on our kids.

    Couple that point with, “the most recent PISA (Programme for Int’l Student Assessment) results, from 2015, placed the U.S. an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science. Among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors the PISA initiative, the U.S. ranked 30th in math and 19th in science.” -Pew Research

    This 3% surtax appears to be throwing more money at underachievement. So, could anyone give me a legitimate rationale why it should remain in place?

  • jack bauer

    Educators, by definition, are educated people so let them start figuring out the best way to educate our kids using the very substantial money already allocated to them. The Robinhood approach of ripping-off small business and folks who are fortunate enough to earn over 200k is appalling. The education budget is already sufficient enough to teach our kids provided we have educators who are motivated to use a 21st century approach.