Question 2 recount withdrawal shifts tax reform question to LePage’s budget proposal

Good morning from Augusta, where we’re only going to have one referendum recount after opponents of Question 2 withdrew a request on Tuesday, making the vote official with the pro-referendum side winning by nearly 9,600 votes.

On Monday, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office will hold a recount on Question 1, which would legalize marijuana. It passed by nearly 4,100 votes. Recounts were never likely to change either outcome: Statewide recounts between 2000 and 2009 analyzed by FairVote showed a median shift of just 229 votes, which wasn’t enough to swing most elections.

But now, the question of tax reform will shift to Gov. Paul LePage and the Maine Legislature — where it was probably going anyway.

The Republican governor has made cutting taxes perhaps his biggest priority in office, signing a budget that provided the largest income tax cut in Maine history in 2011 and saying since 2013 that he wants that tax gone by 2020.

However, Question 2 undoes some of that by placing a 3 percent surtax on annual income over $200,000 and targeting it for K-12 education.

LePage is already urging the Legislature to change tax law to mitigate the impact, saying his two-year budget proposal to be unveiled in January will reduce the income tax rate and remove taxes on pensions, among other changes.

The Legislature’s configuration — with Republicans holding a one-seat advantage in the Senate and Democrats up by just five seats in the House — will make for nailbiting votes. But House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, seemed pessimistic about the possibility of tax cuts on Tuesday, saying he doubts the Legislature has the “political courage.”

Taxes are shaping up to be the signature issue of the legislative session, which is still more than a month from gearing up. With the governor’s term up in 2018, it’ll set the tone for state politics in the post-LePage era.

But he’ll be at the forefront of all debate on the issue for the foreseeable future, which is just where he wants to be. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • A Maine elder abuse expert will testify before a U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday. Jaye Martin, executive director of Maine Legal Services for the Elderly, will testify at the invitation of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, before the Senate Aging Committee. Collins chairs the committee and her office said it will release a Government Accountability Office report on guardianship abuse on Wednesday. The hearing begins at 2:30 p.m. and will be live-streamed.
  • The Maine Republican Party is holding a fundraising reception around the state’s electoral college vote. After Chairman Rick Bennett casts one of Maine’s four electoral votes for President-elect Donald Trump on Dec. 19, the party is having a $28 reception at the party headquarters in Augusta. The first 100 registrants get a “a commemorative gift” and you can pay $100 for “a special commemorative keepsake.”
  • Collins is keynoting an annual conference held by the University of Virginia Center for Politics on Wednesday. She’ll speak at 12:30 p.m., bookended by other appearances from Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and Trump critic Khizr Khan, whose son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, died fighting in Iraq. The conference will be live-streamed.
  • Outgoing Maine House Speaker Mark Eves is holding a press conference today on findings from a senior listening tour. The term-limited North Berwick Democrat made 11 stops around Maine on the topic of senior issues since May. On Wednesday, he’ll release a report and make recommendations to the new Legislature. He is also considering a 2018 gubernatorial run— Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • Advice from a drunk friend: A waitress at a South Portland restaurant got asked on a date by a man about a month ago, but she had to refuse because she had a boyfriend. Luckily for him, she’s single now and turned to Craigslist to take up the offer “because my drunk friend believes it will work.”
  • Are there limits on a vet-owner relationship?: “You are my dog’s vet,” says a Portland man, “and you have said several times how much you love me…now’s your time to prove it.” Here’s your soundtrack— Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.