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  • Caitlin DeLuca

Our path forward: Douglas Rooks sheds light on how the state budget can be a "vehicle for change"

As Governor Mills and our State Legislature get to work together on our state’s budget to chart a path toward our recovery, it’s crucial that they prioritize Maine’s working families.

Gov. Mills has worked hard to keep our state afloat, and when it comes to the next budget, more work needs to be done to ensure we come out of this crisis stronger than we came into it. Click here to read Douglas Rooks’ column on Gov. Mills’ budget.

While the wealthiest among us continue to do well throughout the pandemic, many Mainers aren’t so lucky.

“[T]hose at the bottom — “essential” workers in front-line jobs — have borne the brunt of the virus, dying at much higher rates, and enduring most of the layoffs and wrenching displacements,” said Douglas Rooks in his most recent column. Read the full column here.

In order to protect working Mainers and their families, we need to ensure tax fairness. Former Governor Paul LePage drove income tax rates down, forcing working families to bear a higher proportional tax burden than the wealthiest Mainers. Adjusting that tax rate could be key in increasing our revenue without hurting our economy or working families.

“We may regret doing nothing about Maine’s widening economic disparities,” said Rooks. “Even small rate increases would allow us to cut regressive sales taxes — increased under LePage to make up for lost income tax revenue.Read more.

Beyond the current tax rate, we know that the instinct during an economic crisis is to cut spending across the board. This will only hurt Mainers in the long-term. Instead, we should be increasing our funding to crucial essential services, like education, and investing in job creation.

Currently, young people in Maine are leaving en masse, and not enough are coming in to counteract it. By investing in our higher education system and in job creation, we can attract new talent to the state, and keep more of our young people here.

“Public universities can be engines of economic growth, and Maine has seen promising results from research in forest products and offshore wind generation, but new industries won’t come to fruition — and attract private funding — unless the state makes greater investments,” said Rooks. Read more.

As Gov. Mills and the State Legislature hash out this budget, it’s important that they play the long game, by promoting fair tax rates, and investing in our working families and their future.

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