Friday, March 13, 2009

Tax and, shift!

We have our second Friday the Thirteenth in just three months. February had one, too; and we’re not done for the year. There’s a third one next November. Many people consider this date to be a bad luck day. So many that we even have a word for it: paraskavedekatriaphobia. There are others. I wish I could come up with those names right out of my head, but I have to admit I looked them up. There are some people who consider this a good luck day, but I didn’t find its name. I didn’t look too hard.

Gator Wife found herself in one of the Portland papers way back when we first found each other. I forget if it were the Press Herald or the Evening Express. Remember when we had two? We looked at the paper one day and right there on the front page was a picture of her walking down a street in Portland as she was walking under a ladder leaning against a building.

Walking under ladders was also considered to be bad luck. It was a big picture showing the whole world this foolish young woman getting ready to have the whole world cave in on her. I told her at the time that I saw she wasn’t superstitious. “Of course I am,” she said. “Look who I’m with now! Can’t be good luck.” She was for me; we’ve been together almost a half century.

Yesterday had very nice sunshine and when the wind wasn’t blowing, it was a nice but cool day. The wind, of course, made it rather bitter at times. Today will be somewhat similar but with slightly higher temperatures and a little less wind. It’s the weekend we’re looking forward to. At last the temperatures will return to normal for this time of year and reach into the 40s which often means we could see a 50 or two.

I’m not sure to what he keeps alluding, but the WCSH-TV meteorologist Joe Cupo has said during the last two night’s newscasts that those pesky computers are hinting at something happening in the middle of next week. Cupo is careful not to reveal what the expected weather might be. It’s too early, he says. Kelly LaBrecque said this morning it’ll be rain into snow.

I’m sure you saw last night’s news or have heard or read it this morning that the Maine Democrats can’t face the task of creating a responsible budget for our state. As we’ve said numerous times, their solution to the economic woes of our state is taxation. They are calling their current idea a tax reform package and even are trying to convince us that Mainers will actually see a lowering of their taxes as a result. They’ve sure got a long way to go to convince me.

First, some of its provisions: The income tax rate would be reduced from 8.5% to 6.5%. That would be a good thing and will lull many Mainers into thinking at last, a tax cut. Unfortunately, many Mainers don’t pay income taxes. To pay for that reduction, however, the sales tax would include many items not now taxed, such as recreation and amusements, repair and maintenance except for home repair, personal maintenance such as dry cleaning, pet grooming, and others.

That meal you go out to enjoy will cost you an addition 1.5%, rising from 7% to 8.5%. Need to rent a car for a short term, perhaps while you own car is being repaired? That tax will rise from 10% to 15%. These are only examples. Some items, such as haircuts and snacks, which lost in the last attempt at “reform,” won’t be included.

I see a major fault with this tax shift. It will also increase the cost of businesses doing business. Just for starters, it will cost more for record keeping and filing reports with the state. Who do you think will pay for these costs? Of course, you. Those costs will be added to the prices you pay so a 5% added tax on your recreation, for example, will probably cost you closer to 7% or 8% or more. Sure, you might end up saving a few hundred dollars on your income tax, but that savings and more will be eaten up with the other taxes.

Not so, proclaims the legislator introducing the idea of this tax shift. He says you’ll save 160 million dollars and the new tax structure will bring in $160 million. That’s the shift. And he says out-of-staters will pay about 40% of that. It’s a typical argument of the taxers in the government. In the annual term, you’ll still pay more to the state, especially if you’re one of the poorer Mainers who now pay no or only a small amount of income taxes.

People like me who complain are always asked where we would cut expenditures if we couldn’t support more taxes. My answer is always I didn’t create the mess. But I quickly add that I’d bet the Health and Human Services Department with its virtual unlimited Medicare and welfare payments might be a place to start. I doubt it would have to end in that one department. The Legislature itself might be another place.

It amazes me how in these economic times when you and I are struggling to makes ends meet and finding places to adjust our spending, why the Democrats in our state legislature, as they’ve done for more than 35 years now, feel that adding to our burden will make things better. I’d like to see the state do a little of our struggling for a while and then see what happens.


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