Tax Policy Articles in Maine Policy Review

2015

The Future Is Now: Legal Planning for Elders

Authors:        Eastman, Jennifer

Maine Policy Review 24(2): 63-66

Legal planning for elders focuses on protecting retirement income and finding ways to pay for long-term health care. Jennifer Eastman discusses estate and tax planning and planning for retirement income, Social Security issues, and asset preservation. She notes that protecting elder adults requires planning and advocating for (or against) policy changes that could adversely affect elders.

2013

Issues in Tax Reform in Maine

Authors:        Woodbury, Richard

Maine Policy Review 22(2): 11-25

Tax reform has been a prominent topic of public policy discussions in Maine for many years. And, while changes have been made to aspects of Maine’s tax structure over time, reforms have been piecemeal rather than comprehensive. Maine’s tax system continues to be described by critics as some combination of imbalanced, burdensome, unfair, uncompetitive, complex, archaic, and volatile. This study describes some of the features of Maine’s current tax system, and some of the approaches to reform that have been considered in recent years. The study evaluate how alternative approaches to reform might be evaluated and structured to achieve different goals, such as progressivity, growth, revenue stability and exportability. In discussing the differential impact of alternative approaches to tax reform, the distribution of taxes between residents and nonresidents is among the issues highlighted in the article.

The Distributional Effects of Recent Changes to Maine’s Tax System

Authors:        Johnson, Joel

Maine Policy Review 22(2): 26-33

Both classical economic theory and recent empirical research support the notion that taxes should be progressive: that the wealthiest citizens should pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the middle class, and the middle class should pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the poor. Like every other state in the U.S., Maine’s state and local tax system is not progressive, or even proportional with respect to income, but regressive. This article summarizes recent changes to income, sales, and property taxes that have made Maine’s state and local tax system more regressive.

The Impact of Post-Recession State Revenue Reductions on Maine’s Municipalities

Authors:        Shaw, Emily

Maine Policy Review 22(2): 34-41

Maine municipalities have received substantially less revenue from the state over the past several years, due to a combination of financial pressures on state budgets and state administrative policy preferences. The result is that municipalities have been forced to restructure the provision and funding of local services through a combination of reducing spending in some categories, raising additional money from residents and other users of town services, or taking on additional municipal debt. However, on average, Maine’s municipalities have so far been unable to reduce their total spending. This discussion of municipal responses to reduced state revenue is based on analyzing responses to the 2007–2011 Maine Municipal Association fiscal surveys of municipal revenues and expenditures.

2007

State Earned Income Tax Credits and “Making Work Pay”: How Maine Might Help Workers

Authors:        Beamer, Glenn

Maine Policy Review 16(1): 46-53

Established in 1975, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) became the federal government’s largest antipoverty program for citizens under the age of 65 by the mid-1990s. In this article, Glenn Beamer gives a brief overview of how the program works and how states have piggybacked on the federal EITC to further assist their working poor. He observes that Maine’s EITC policy does not fully avail itself of potential returns and points to other states with policies that provide greater benefits for the working poor. He suggests that expanding Maine’s EITC not only would provide working Mainers with extra income, but also would direct resources to parts of the state that are struggling economically.

2005

Tax Policy and the Principles Underlying a “Good Tax”

Authors:        Nichols, Kenneth L.

Maine Policy Review 14(1): 12-15

A “good tax”—can there be such a thing? Kenneth Nichols explores the principles for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of taxes on income, consumption, and wealth. Contrary to common argument, Nichols points out, there is no “best” tax, but there are five interrelated criteria for evaluating taxes that, collectively, may be used to assess whether tax reform efforts are moving us closer to or further away from a better overall tax system for Maine.

1999

Maine’s Dubious Odyssey into the Funding of Local Government

Authors:        Mills, Peter

Maine Policy Review 8(2): 38-47

Despite recent reforms to Maine’s school funding, State Senator Peter Mills argues that the formula will not be truly “fixed” until the state addresses the municipal side of property tax inequities. To that end, he prescribes some tough medicine for Maine policymakers to relieve the disproportionate tax burden on the state’s service center communities. Among other things, he suggests we consider repealing some of the exemptions that exclude a quarter of all property from taxation; permitting service centers to adopt local option taxes; and injecting the state’s limited revenue sharing funds into just those municipalities with intolerable tax burdens that remain unmanageable through local resources. Moreover, Mills asserts that the state “cannot relieve inequity by trying to carpet bomb the property tax.” He calls for an end to expensive and unfocused measures that sprinkle the state’s revenue too broadly. With income tax rates among the highest in the nation (and a sales tax soon to be reduced), Mills argues that Maine’s failure to address property tax inequities squanders the state’s limited resources and places the state’s future economic competitiveness in jeopardy.

1997

The Power to Tax; the Need to Provide

Authors:        King, Dennis

Maine Policy Review 6(1): 4-5

Pointing to the vital role nonprofit organizations fill in providing services for those in need, Dennis King in the Margaret Chase Smith Essay suggests carefully considering the trend toward taxation of this sector, and weigh it against alternative, revenue-generating strategies that reinforce rather than strain the relationship between government and nonprofit charities.

Taking Charge of Maine’s Fiscal Fortunes: Taxes are Only One Piece of the Puzzle

Authors:        LaPlante, Josephine M.

Maine Policy Review 6(1): 7-16

Are Maine’s taxes too high? This question and others continue to plague policymakers and citizens throughout Maine. This article provides the first of two perspectives on how to achieve meaningful tax reform. Josephine LaPlante suggests taking the long view, evaluating carefully the state’s tax structure and the impacts of any tax reforms. She presents a comprehensive framework for considering such changes and argues that taking charge of Maine’s fiscal house includes not only tax reform but also a reassessment of how the state provides public services to meet the needs and preferences of its citizens.

Whose Tax Burden? Whose Tax Fairness? And Whose Tax Reform?

Authors:        St. John, Christopher

Maine Policy Review 6(1): 17-25

Current efforts to reform Maine’s tax system represent no new business, according to Christopher “Kit” St. John. In this second article in this issue about tax reform, St. John suggests the need to re-examine reform principles in Maine and, more particularly, reassess conventional wisdom that professes a relationship between tax reform and economic competitiveness. He examines recent reform proposals and offers a path forward, one based on relieving tax burden while maintaining tax fairness, especially for low-income citizens of Maine.

A Critical Exegesis of Maine’s Creaky Tax Code

Authors:        Mills, Peter

Maine Policy Review 6(2): 50-57

In this provocative and thorough examination of Maine’s tax code, Peter Mills provides a candid assessment of what is wrong with the state’s current system. Focusing on the revenue side of state government, Mills begins by pointing out that Maine does not have a cohesive tax code per se, but a hodgepodge of provisions and exemptions that in totality place the primary burden for supporting state government on the labor and consumption of Maine’s individual citizens. Mills offers his own perspective on fixing the troubled tax code, and suggests some solutions such as reducing the sales tax rate and eliminating the BETR/TIF “double dip.” In proposing such changes, Mills challenges legislators and other state leaders to transcend political expediency in fixing the many problems he raises for discussion.

Tax Commentary: A Legislative Perspective

Authors:        Rowe, Steven

Maine Policy Review 6(2): 64-66

Tax Revenue Targeting as the Anchor for Tax Reform

Authors:        Richert, Evan

Maine Policy Review 6(2): 66-67

A Municipal Retrospective on Comprehensive Tax Reform

Authors:        Lockwood, Christopher G.

Maine Policy Review 6(2): 68-70

Maine’s Tax Structure—Tax Reform or Government Reform and Economic Development?

Authors:        Douglas, Rick

Maine Policy Review 6(2): 70-72

1996

Tax-and-Match: Resolving Tension between State Financial Pressure and Federal Public Policy Intentions

Authors:        Woodward, A. Mark

Maine Policy Review 5(1): 57-63

How tax-and-match, a federal program designed to help states subsidize hospital care for low income patients, came into existence and how it was overexploited is recent history Mainers should pause to consider. Woodward traces Maine’s tax-and-match experience from its inception in 1991 to its repeal in 1995 and in doing so illustrates a set of larger issues related to the integrity of federal-state relations, the difficulties in developing fiscally sound health policies in a resource tight environment, and the political machinations that can lead to quick-fix solutions over long-term policy resolutions. With federal block grants looming in the future, Woodward suggests that if Maine is willing to learn from its recent tax-and-match experience, then perhaps Maine is poised to do the right thing when it comes to developing fiscally sound health policies for the future.

A Property Tax Cap for Maine? Roots of Voter Discontent and Likely Impacts

Authors:        LaPlante, Josephne

Maine Policy Review 5(2): 41-50

In Maine, as in many other states, there is evidence of a growing sentiment to cap the property tax. Josephine LaPlante tackles this issue head on. Following a brief review of property tax limitation efforts in Maine and elsewhere, she provides an analysis of the impacts a property tax cap would have on the state.

Tax Policy and Economic Development: A Roundtable Assessment

Authors:        St. John, Christopher; Brigham, Alan P.; Colgan, Charles; Mahany, Brian H.

Maine Policy Review 5(3): 7-15

Economic development continues to be a top policy issue for the state of Maine. Within the broad topic of economic development is the issue of tax policy, and the state continues to experiment with changes in traditional taxes, such as sales and income, as well as with newer approaches, such as Employment Tax Increment Financing. What works and what does not work? Can the state afford the potential loss of revenues associated with tax incentives? Who wins and who loses from these policies? To answer these questions, Maine Policy Review convened a panel of experts to review Maine’s record. Two represent state government and have been involved directly in the administration of tax incentives, Brian Mahany and Alan P. Brigham. They are joined by two policy analysts with expertise in economic development, Christopher “Kit” St. John and Charles Colgan. There is a surprising degree of consensus about the inevitability of tax incentives and the value of their judicious application. Yet, it also is clear that they are not the centerpiece of economic development policy, and their impacts on the equitable distribution of public funds must be monitored.

Overhauling Maine’s Tax System

Authors:        Valente, Paula

Maine Policy Review 5(3): 77-80

1995

Capping Maine’s Income Tax: Neglected Issues and Dimensions

Authors:        LaPlante, Josephine M.

Maine Policy Review 4(2): 63-67

Economist Josephine LaPlante’s commentary discusses Maine’s new income tax cap.

1994

From Welfare to Work: Prospects for Transition

Authors:        Dorrer, John

Maine Policy Review 3(3): 37-45

Welfare reform is at the top of the agenda for many members of the new Congress. But, as John Dorrer observes addressing this increasingly important topic, no silver bullet for solving our welfare problems has been found. He urges welfare reformers to attempt to understand the social and economic contexts in which our welfare system operates and to move cautiously in making changes.

1991

Environmental Use Taxes?

Authors:        Townsend, Ralph

Maine Policy Review 1(1): 150-151