Tackling Tax, Wage, and Environmental Policies

This column was originally published in the Lincoln County News

Now that session is well underway, a number of bills that I’ve sponsored will begin to make their way through the committee process. Three bills in particular have already gained a lot of attention.

The first bill I will mention is L.R. 1613, “An Act To Protect Monhegan Island.” Although this bill hasn’t yet made it out of the drafting process or been assigned an L.D. number, it’s already gained media attention from around the country.

This bill would prohibit the placement of a wind energy test area – with turbines forecasted to be 585 feet tall – within 10 miles of the Monhegan Lobster Conservation Area.

This measure is critical to safeguard the area’s legacy and is necessary to protect the population of migratory birds that use the island as an important landfall along the North Atlantic Flyway and it’s necessary to protect the area’s economy and culture.

The island has long been a destination for many of America’s foremost artists, along with a number of seasonal residents and visitors who like to enjoy a simpler way of life that’s only possible on this remote island located miles off the shore of Maine.

Mainers would never allow a massive wind turbine experiment to be placed within a short distance from the top of Mount Katahdin or near the shores of Acadia National Park, because these are special places and so is Monhegan Island.

Having said this, I firmly believe that the final decision rests with the permanent residents of the island who need to determine the merits of this bill. I believe the need is to finally settle this issue so that outside interests will know whether they can build this project or move on to a different area. I will be available to Monhegan residents to help resolve this issue.

Another noteworthy bill that I’ve sponsored this session is L.D. 571, “An Act To Eliminate the 3 Percent Surcharge on Certain Income and Provide an Alternative Funding Source for the Fund To Advance Public Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education.”

If passed, this bill would eliminate the new income tax designed to increase funding to K-12 education, replacing the funds with taxes from other sources, such as those collected from the sale of recreational marijuana products, on Airbnb stays, and from Amazon sales, until the state has met the 55 percent funding obligation.

The people of Maine voted to make education funding a top priority over a decade ago when they voted on a referendum to require the state to pay 55 percent of the cost of education. Last year, they again voted to increase education funding with the passage of Question 2. Unfortunately, to fund this increase in support, Question 2 raised Maine’s income tax rate significantly, making it the highest in the country.

This new income tax rate makes our state uncompetitive, both on a regional and national scale. As a result, we’ve already started to see businesses, health care professionals, and other affected citizens leave our state, taking jobs and resources with them, because they can’t afford to operate here under these conditions.

We have heard the people’s message loud and clear in Augusta; funding our schools will continue to be a top priority. But we can’t reach this goal off the backs of Maine’s employers and small businesses.

L.D. 571 has been referred to the Committee on Taxation for consideration.

The third noteworthy bill is L.D. 831, “An Act to Base the Minimum Wage on a New England State Average and to Restore the Tip Credit.” As the name would suggest, this bill would ensure that Maine isn’t an outlier in the region, or the country. It will also ensure that our restaurant industry can continue to flourish, and that staff that works for tips can continue to make a decent living.

These are only a few of the bills that will be considered this legislative session. If you have any questions or comments, I can be reached at 287-1500 or dana.dow@legislature.maine.gov.

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