‘Fun’ taxes and no more aid: Did LePage’s rural voters get snookered?

Cynthia: Rural Republicans surely are feeling snookered, Mike. What’s worse — the governor’s proposed tax on fun or Congressman Poliquin’s surprise vote for Obamacare?

Mike: Bruce’s vote was certainly more surprising and, yes, I am sure people are shocked. But — spoiler alert — Barack Obama was going to veto the repeal of his signature law. So we’re net zero.

As for rural Republicans, they snowmobile this time of year for fun and are whacked with sales and gas taxes on that. The governor is just extending it to Cape Elizabeth yoga or Kennebunk zumba. Besides, I thought you were pro-fun taxes?

Cynthia: If Cape Elizabeth yoga was half the “fun” of Kennebunk zumba, a consumption tax could very well make up any lost revenue resulting from gutting the income tax, as the governor proposes.

Rural Republicans certainly did get whacked. They were promised the most conservative governor and got one espousing change, innovation, thinking outside the box, raising taxes, and eliminating revenue sharing. Heck, Gov. LePage might as well concede a national park is good for the economy while their heads are spinning.

Mike: Hey, he proposed eliminating revenue sharing in 2013. And he has been harping on innovation in education and county government since he’s been in office. None of this should be too surprising. So what was your favorite not-too-surprising part of the State of the State?

Cynthia: I liked the message that all Mainers with compassion, good ideas and a willingness to work — regardless of party or ZIP code — can be on the team that innovates and works to make Maine prosperous. Everyone wants to be rich.

The challenge with the governor’s plan is that it seems to rely on the old saw that if you lower taxes, job creators will come and prosperity will trickle down. For people who pay attention and scratch beneath the surface of propaganda, this is a hard sell — even for a master salesman.

Mike: I thought you were claiming the tax plan was a mere rehash of the 2009 Democratic plan that you supported? So is it that, or something else? And while we can debate economic theory another day, I don’t think it is fair to characterize this tax plan as “trickle down.” It is more of a “keep the grandparents and their disposable income here” plan, with a dash of “whack the tourist.”

Cynthia: The Democrats in 2009 lowered the income tax rates and broadened the sales tax base but didn’t plot to eliminate the income tax altogether. That’s one difference, in fact. Had the Republicans not repealed the law, Mainers in the highest bracket would be paying the low rate of 6.5 percent right now.

Second, the 2009 tax reform package didn’t leave a gaping hole in state revenues like the LePage plan because many Democrats believe important programs like education can’t sustain massive budget cuts without serious negative consequences — especially in rural Maine.

You have to wonder if Gov. LePage would have won the election had he campaigned on his real agenda to repeal revenue sharing and increase taxes as part of a major tax reform. Is the lesson here, “tell voters only what they want to hear?”

Mike: Cynthia, like I said, Gov. LePage proposed cutting revenue sharing in 2013. That isn’t new. And, in 2012, he said he wanted to eliminate the income tax. If this was a surprise, then the lesson is to invest in Q-Tips, since people apparently have clogged ears!

I’m glad you acknowledge the governor’s plan is ultimately a tax cut rather than the Democratic “revenue neutral” fiction. But “massive budget cuts?” Where are those? The gripe from Republicans is that they don’t exist! And while I appreciate the Democratic magnanimity of accepting the “low rate” of 6.5 percent, that would still be higher than Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Meanwhile, we keep hearing from non-profits that taxes will lead to job losses — why does that logic not extend to the private sector?

Cynthia: Oh, I see. Republicans repealed the 2009 tax reform law “because it didn’t go far enough?” Funny, I seem to recall a LOT of outrage about taxes on haircuts and going to the movies.

You make a good point about non-profits, though. The problem for rural communities, of course, is they don’t have any.

In any event, I applaud Congressman Poliquin for his vote in support of Obamacare. He’s right — too many people would be hurt by its repeal. And I applaud the governor for pulling a fast one on recalcitrant local officials in rural towns who have to face the music and find a dance partner or sit the next election out.

Mike: Both Congressman Poliquin and Gov. LePage are governing, which is much harder than campaigning. No one is going to agree with them on everything. But they should both be commended for making the decision they believe is correct and then standing behind it. Now if only your party would admit they voted for and supported those 2012 “tax cuts for the rich” they keep whining about…

Cynthia: The president of the United States is not whining and should be applauded for governing, too. His budget is bold, innovative and seeks to bring prosperity to America. Unlike Maine’s rural Republicans, Democrats weren’t snookered at all.