On November 8, Maine voters will consider Question 2, a ballot initiative that would roll back recent tax breaks for the wealthy and dedicate this revenue to provide additional state level resources for schools. In our new report, Moving Maine Students to the Head of the Class, MECEP’s research and analysis concluded that the proposed three percent tax on income above $200,000 dedicated to K-12 education will increase state funding for schools, promote tax fairness, help promote greater opportunity for low-income students, and level the playing field between property-poor and property-rich towns. It will have a positive impact for students, businesses, and Maine families, strengthening Maine’s economy.
In 2004, Maine voters passed a ballot initiative pledging the state to fund 55 percent of the statewide cost of educating students. Despite this mandate, the state’s share of education funding peaked at 52.86 percent in 2009 and has since declined to 47.18 percent for fiscal year 2017. Tens of millions of dollars in income tax cuts since 2011 that largely benefit wealthy households have further compromised the state’s capacity to invest in education. Because of these tax cuts, Maine will lose $297 million in state revenue in 2017 that would have been available for education funding. As state education funding has decreased, local costs have increased—an average of $180 million a year.
Question 2 would increase education by funding by $159 million in its first year and increase further in subsequent years.
The proposed ballot initiative will also improve the fairness of Maine’s tax code. The 20 percent of Mainers with the lowest household incomes currently pay a higher proportion of their income in total state taxes than the wealthiest one percent of Mainers. Question 2 will make Maine’s tax code fairer by increasing taxes only on the wealthiest Mainers.
Inequity between school districts denies too many Maine kids the education they deserve. Maine communities with higher levels of low-income students spend less per student on average than communities with fewer low-income students, and schools with higher rates of students living in poverty have lower test scores. The additional revenue from Question 2 will help to bridge this education funding gap between property-rich and property-poor communities and expand equitable access to quality education for all students throughout Maine.
As Maine employers struggle to attract and retain skilled workers, the economic value of a strong education system becomes even more important. Increasing state funding will help make it possible for all Maine communities to afford a high quality K-12 education that prepares students to succeed in the classroom and the workforce and to build a stronger economy to benefit all Mainers
Mainers understand that a good education is the gateway to good jobs, more prosperous families, and greater opportunity for successful careers. They know that employers need workers with the education and skills to keep pace with changing technologies to compete in the global marketplace. And Mainers understand that a well-funded K-12 education system is essential to robust economic growth and thriving prosperity in which we all share. Moving Maine Students to the Head of the Class confirms that Question 2 will go a long way toward providing the funds Maine needs to realize these goals.