Organized labor, faith communities, immigrants, women, students and grassroots activists join fight for fair taxes and a responsible budget
AUGUSTA, Maine — A diverse group of 22 organizations and local elected officials is calling on legislators to roll back LePage-era tax cuts for the wealthy so the state can fully fund education, health care, local services, and other priorities.
“While income tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthiest Mainers will cost the state $864 million over the next two years, our members are seeing their wages and benefits fall behind while position cuts and vacancies make it harder to provide critical public services,” said Ramona Welton, President of the Maine State Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989. “MSEA-SEIU Local 1989 is proud to join the Prosperity Coalition and to advocate for a budget that puts Maine back on track and empowers our members to provide the highest level of service to Mainers and Maine businesses.”
The Prosperity Coalition is comprised of local elected officials and organizations representing tens of thousands of Mainers, including union members, faith communities, immigrants, students, seniors, women, low-income families, small businesses and grassroots activists. Members held a press conference and rally to launch the Coalition on Thursday at the State House.
LePage-era income tax cuts have wasted tax dollars on giveaways to the wealthiest, leaving the state with inadequate resources to meet Mainers’ needs.
While Gov. Janet Mills’ spending proposal is an improvement on her predecessor’s budgets, it is hamstrung by the choice to maintain LePage-era tax cuts for the wealthiest. The tax policy status quo would lead to continued underfunding of public education and municipal revenue sharing.
The current, lopsided tax system leaves many Mainers behind.
“In its Moral Agenda, the Maine Council of Churches calls for tax and budget policies that reduce disparities between those who have wealth and those who live in poverty,” said Rev. Jane Field, executive director of the Maine Council of Churches. “Hebrew and Christian scriptures, in which our mission has its roots, are clear: Any society is judged by the way it cares for the most vulnerable and marginalized. There are systems and root causes that create the oppression of poverty, so we call on Maine’s legislators to address these by prioritizing fair taxes, moral budgets, and policies that ensure all Mainers have equal access to basics like food, shelter and health care, and everyone has greater opportunity to realize their full potential.”
Voters have endorsed raising taxes on the wealthiest Mainers to fund education, and public opinion research shows Mainers are skeptical that trickle-down tax policy will improve Maine’s economy. Yet today, the top 1 percent in Maine pays the lowest effective state and local tax rate of any group.
“To build prosperity for all Mainers, this year’s budget must address our state’s revenue challenges,” said Garrett Martin, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy. “Tax cuts for the wealthy don’t build a stronger economy. They make it harder for all of us to come together to pay for the things that do: good schools, reliable public services, and investments in things like health care and infrastructure. This year, lawmakers will face a choice: Keep the wasteful LePage-era tax cuts for the wealthy or fully fund our schools and communities and begin to build the foundations for a more inclusive, prosperous economy.”
As budget negotiations continue, the Prosperity Coalition will organize and mobilize Mainers to advocate for solutions that un-rig the state’s tax code and fund schools, communities, and other investments that build shared prosperity.
Founding members of the Prosperity Coalition include: Alliance for Retired Americans, Food AND Medicine, Maine Equal Justice, Maine Education Association, Maine Student Action, Maine AFL-CIO, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, Maine Council of Churches, Maine Center for Economic Policy, Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, Moral Movement Maine, Maine People’s Alliance, Maine Small Business Coalition, Maine Women’s Lobby, Maine State Employees Association-SEIU Local 1989, New Mainers Business & Service Providers Association, and Oxford Hills Indivisible; as well as Portland City Councilors Pious Ali, Justin Costa and Jill Duson, Lewiston City Councilor Jim Lysen, and RSU 34 School Board member Moriah Geer.