Governor Janet Mills has agrees with the Maine business lobby against proposals from Democrats to raise taxes on high earners.
While the back-and-forth around budget issues has dominated policymaking this year, lawmakers are now tackling a slew of bills around taxes and employee rights. They were introduced at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, which closed or severely hampered most businesses for a time and sent many workers into essential jobs that often paid little.
Talks reached a key step on Tuesday, when the Legislature’s tax committee killed a ream of tax bills from both Democrats and Republicans, but endorsed a plan along party lines from Rep. Mike Sylvester, D-Portland, the committee’s co-chair, to place a 3 percent surcharge on income over $200,000 and funnel it toward Maine earned income tax credit.
The state’s fiscal landscape has changed dramatically during the pandemic, from doomsday budget projections at the outset to a projected surplus of $940 million over the next two years sustained by federal aid. Between now and June, lawmakers will deal with new plans from Governor Mills to add hundreds of millions to the state budget — including historic increases to school and local aid — and spend more than $1 billion in federal aid.
Many businesses are struggling to ramp back up, with nationwide worker shortages particularly hitting the hospitality industry as it looks to take advantage of loosening economic restrictions that will lift around the beginning of Maine’s summer tourism season on Memorial Day.
When asked about the measures at a Tuesday news conference in Auburn, Mills referred a reporter to her plan to use stimulus funds, which puts $260 million towards aid meant to help industries recovering from the pandemic, saying she does not have a position on “each and every one” of the nearly 1,700 bills submitted this year.