Maine Mayors Push to Allow Local Sales Taxes

A group of Maine mayors is pushing state lawmakers to allow them to implement a local sales tax.

Maine is among a handful of states nationwide where state law forbids a sales tax issued by a municipality.

Various efforts have been tried over the past few decades, but some mayors believe the latest one may have a better chance of success because Maine Gov. Janet Mills is a Democrat, and both chambers of the legislature are controlled by Democrats.

The idea to allow local sales taxes, formally submitted to lawmakers as draft legislation on Wednesday has bipartisan support and opposition.

Auburn Mayor, Jason Levesque is a Republican who wants lawmakers to approve the measure.

He doesn't necessarily want to implement a local sales tax in his city, but he thinks Maine's local governments should be able to if they decide it's necessary.

"It's an additional tool in a toolbox," he said.

Other mayors in cities like South Portland and Portland are in complete support, saying extra revenue would generate millions of dollars for schools and roads that have been underfunded since Maine's state government ended revenue sharing with cities and towns.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) is a left-leaning lobbying group that urged lawmakers to vote no on allowing local sales taxes at a hearing in Augusta on Wednesday.

"To be super blunt, poor people will be paying the highest proportion of funds that will be raised in this way," said Sarah Austin, a policy analyst with MECEP.

The organization thinks raising the income tax on high earners would accomplish the same goal as allowing a municipal sales tax without cutting into the already tight budgets of low-income families.

"One thing that's critical when it comes to paying for things: We all need is making sure its done in a fair way," she said.

The proposal to allow a municipal sales tax is still a few legislative steps away from becoming law.

The full state legislature would need to vote on it and then it would need to be signed into law by Mills.

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