Thursday, April 2, 2009

Maine jobs forecast and taxes

Thursday is Senior Fitness day. We have damp, cloudy, foggy, drizzly weather this morning. The two aren’t compatible. ‘Nuff said.

The news doesn’t get any better on the Maine economy, although forecasters say there is some light at the end of a long tunnel. The Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission reported yesterday that Maine will lose about 36-thousand jobs during this recession. The good part was that we could see the recovery beginning sometime in the third quarter of next year. The Commission feels that about half the job losses have taken place.

We won’t know how that report will affect another report expected out later this month. In that one the Revenue Forecasting Committee will make its predictions on expected revenue from all sources in the coming fiscal year. It is expected that partly at least due to the job losses, the state’s revenues will continue to be way below what the legislature hopes.

It only stands to reason that if another 18-thousand Mainers are put out of work, at the very least the income tax and the sales tax revenues will be down. The business tax probably will also fall off along with most revenues in the state.

Meanwhile in Augusta the legislature’s taxation committee continues to study the budget for the next biennium and plans to alter the state’s tax structure. A lowering of the income tax top rate (which nearly all income tax payers pay), an increase in the number of items to be subject to the sales tax, and some increases in some taxes (food, lodging, etc.) and some fees increases are all included in a plan the Democrats say will be revenue neutral but lower the overall tax for Mainers.

Of course if the tax structure remains revenue neutral, then people aren’t paying less in taxes. Oh, sure, the Democrats tell us that much of the increase will be paid by non-Mainers. I guess no one has told the legislators that Mainers also eat out, stay in lodgings in the state, etc. In fact, restaurant people would tell you more Mainers eat in restaurants than out-of-staters.

The Legislature is also looking at some citizen initiatives designed to lower the tax burden. There is a referendum proposal, for example, to lower the excise tax people pay on cars. The legislature would either have to pass that proposal or send it out to voters. There are other referendum considerations also being discussed in Augusta.

The Republicans are pushing a bill to cut the cost of some Department of Health and Human Services programs by placing limits of various welfare programs. I’d like to see them passed to put Maine in line with most of the other states and the federal government, but if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the Democrats blocking those attempts.

There are lots of playing times left in the legislature, so we all will just have to sit back and wait to see what happens. I doubt we’ll see any meaningful reform that will help Maine taxpayers fight through the economic mess we’re all facing.

Another citizen initiated bill being discussed in Augusta is the repeal of the education consolidation bill passed by the last legislature. Gov. Baldacci wanted school districts to consolidate from about 290 to about 80. Although most of the state has obeyed the law, a group petitioned the state to have a repeal vote on the ballot in the next election. The group did gather the necessary signatures so the legislature now has the choice of passing the repeal or sending it out to voters.

The Committee hearing input on the bill was told that about 80 percent of the districts have fulfilled the law’s requirements at a savings of more than $36-million dollars. The reports I read yesterday did not say where all that money was saved, but the government said it had happened so I suppose it has happened. We may find out where the savings were someday. Specifics savings totally that total must be given if the state wants my vote supporting the consolidation.

Want to know about the future of illegal aliens in the United States? We got a hint yesterday when Fox News reported that Homeland Security ordered 27 illegals be freed from custody after being arrested in a raid on a Washington State business. Fox News also reported that they were given work permit cards to allow them to return to work.

Fox News said that the new Secretary of Homeland Security is crafting a policy of punishing some employers rather than the immigrants.

I guess that means the Department of Homeland Security is opening the doors to America to anyone, legal or not. Some security.

Yet another appointee of President Obama has admitted to “unintentionally” failing to pay all her income tax for the last three years. That brings to at least six nominees, including the secretary of the treasury, that have paid back taxes and interest to get nominated. Several others withdrew their names before the process began to avoid having to answer questions in Congress in the nomination process. These are the people we’re trusting to recover our economy and lead us in obeying law and order. So much for “hope and change” in this Administration. Seems just like more of the same to me, only perhaps worse.

We are in for a long four or eight years of watching our great country fall into third world category. I sure do hope I’m totally wrong and misreading all the signs.

And finally, after 15 years the television program ER is airing its series final episode tonight. In 15 years I’ve never seen ER.


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