Meg Wiehe, state policy director for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a left-leaning organization that evaluates tax reform initiatives, questions whether journalists are making accurate appraisals of Republican policy in Maine and other states.
“It’s frustrating to me because they’re not looking hard enough,” she said. “I just don’t think that it’s true that governors have taken a lesson from Brownback and aren’t following the supply-side ideology anymore.”
She said most of the tax overhauls, including LePage’s, will benefit the wealthy further at the expense of low- and middle-income earners. In a January report, her organization concluded that in 2015 the poorest fifth of Americans will pay 10.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle fifth will pay 9.4 percent and the top 1 percent will average 5.4 percent. Maine ranked 44th in the country in regressivity.
“With growing income inequality, it makes no sense for lawmakers to hitch their revenue wagon to people whose incomes are stagnant or even declining and to not rely on folks at the top of the spectrum who are seeing tremendous income growth,” she said.
Wiehe added that there are elements in the governor’s plan that could help mitigate impacts on low- and middle-income residents, including tax credits. However, those initiatives could easily get cut if the state encounters a future revenue shortfall.
LePage, meanwhile, has vowed to plow forward and urged the Legislature to get behind him. The states, he said, were ground zero for change, the “50 laboratories of democracy.”