Tax Committee Votes to Kill the Death Tax

03/11/2016 11:42 AM EST
For Immediate Release: Friday, March 11, 2016 Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

Majority report supports governor’s proposal to eliminate Maine’s estate tax

AUGUSTA – The Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Taxation voted 7-6 on Thursday in favor of Governor LePage’s proposal to eliminate Maine’s estate tax.

LD 1622, sponsored by Rep. Stedman Seavey (R-Kennebunkport) and cosponsored by Sen. Earle McCormick (R-Kennebec), repeals the estate tax starting on January 1, 2017.

“I am encouraged by the Tax Committee’s vote and hope their colleagues in the House and Senate will give this proposal serious consideration,” said Governor LePage. “Maine’s death tax is killing our chances at prosperity. We now have an opportunity to eliminate the death tax as 32 other states have done and send a clear message that we want people to stay in Maine or move back from states where there is no estate tax.”

Governor LePage first called for the elimination of the estate tax as part of his January 2015 biennial budget submission, proposing to conform to the federal estate tax exemption for 2016 and eliminating the estate tax in 2017. The Legislature voted to conform with the federal estate tax exemption amount in 2016, but stopped short of eliminating it, prompting Governor LePage to introduce this stand-alone bill.

With estimated collections of $14.4 million for deaths occurring in 2016, Maine’s estate tax is no longer a significant source of revenue when compared to taxes such as the income tax, sales tax and property tax. Revenue from the tax is notoriously unreliable and difficult to predict. Just as importantly, the Office of Tax Policy estimates that Maine would only need to retain or attract 400 individuals in order to collect the same amount of tax revenue.

“Mainers with significant liquid assets only need to change their residency to escape our oppressive estate tax,” said Governor LePage. “Our business owners and farmers, who have fixed assets in Maine, are the ones that retain their residency and whose families are burdened by the estate tax.”

Liquid assets include savings, investments and other items that are not fixed within Maine are easily protected by changing residency to a non-estate tax state. Fixed assets include land, buildings and business equipment, which are difficult to transfer ownership without incurring significant legal costs.

Clark Granger, vice president of the Maine Farm Bureau, who appeared before the committee in his personal capacity, provided compelling testimony to the committee about how Maine farmers are tied to the land they own and are unable to avoid Maine’s estate tax. As a result, farm families are often hit by the estate tax as ownership transfers from one generation to the next.

In 2013, the last year of complete data, a total of 78 non-residents and 91 residents were required to pay the estate tax. The non-resident returns had a tax liability of $1.7 million. The resident returns had a total tax liability of $25.8 million.

Following the repeal of Tennessee’s inheritance tax at the beginning of 2016, Maine is one of only 18 states that have some form of estate or inheritance tax. Most of those states are located in the Northeast and Midwest.

Governor’s bill strengthens welfare work requirement and reduces liability of Maine taxpayers

03/10/2016 02:25 PM EST
**Augusta** – Governor Paul R. LePage, for the third time, will introduce legislation to prioritize employment over welfare entitlement by aligning Maine’s welfare programs with federal law. From 2007 through 2013, Maine’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) failed to meet the federal work participation rates causing the state to face nearly $29 million in federal fines. Members of the Legislature have not only ignored the issue, they have protected the very exemptions in Maine law that have discouraged employment and this Administration’s goals of helping people move from poverty to prosperity.

“The Legislature once again has the chance to correct a situation that is detrimental to both the people on the program and the Maine taxpayers. It is time to hold accountable those who refuse to work because of baseless excuses,” said Governor Paul LePage. “We must restore taxpayers’ faith in the integrity of the system and ensure it is helping those who truly need it in a way that supports them becoming self-sufficient. More importantly, we could fix the problem that led to the $29 million in fines.”

“This legislation and the reforms proposed are critical to further advancing our efforts to incentivize work in the best interests of those in need of temporary assistance, rather than the long-held views by democrats that these individuals are incapable of helping themselves and therefore should be protected from the employment requirements that are core to the federal law.,” said DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “Twice democrats in the legislature have denied this Administration’s attempts to correct the issue. The people we are trying to help get back to work and the $29 million in looming federal penalties can no longer be ignored. We must align our program to the federal guidelines and stop allowing people to opt-out of their required work so easily.”

LD1631 will use a two-prong approach to address the issue. First, it will eliminate the requirement for blanket “good cause” exemptions for TANF recipients not complying with the work requirements. The Department will still have the ability to grant good cause in certain circumstances that truly prevent the recipient from completing work requirements, such as in cases involving victims of domestic violence. In addition, the Department will have more flexibility to impose a sanction more quickly in cases where it is appropriate to do so. Under the current process, administrative hurdles delay sanctions and allow noncompliant recipients to receive TANF benefits for additional months. Not only does this produce a barrier to independence, it also contributes to the state not meeting its work participation rate. If a TANF recipient is not working, it counts against the State’s rate because Maine’s “good cause exemptions” are much more broad than they should be.

Secondly, the legislation will create a fund to pay fines imposed on the State by the Federal Government due to Maine’s failure to comply with Federal ASPIRE-TANF program requirements.

In August, the Department received a letter from the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) informing the state that it would need to pay the first penalty of the $29 million currently assessed. The 2007 penalty amount totaled $1.16 million and will need to be paid with state funds. The letter demonstrates the real financial liability associated with past failures to make sure recipients were working. It’s a mistake that Maine cannot continue to repeat.

Governor Announces Judicial Nominees

03/08/2016 02:08 PM EST

 

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 08, 2016 Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531 AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage announced today judicial nominations of three lawyers to serve as judges in Maine Superior and District Courts and three Active Retired Judges for the Maine Superior and District Courts.

Governor LePage has nominated attorney Harold Stewart II to serve as a Maine Superior Court Justice and Attorneys Deborah Cashman and Patrick Larson to serve as Judges in Maine District Court.

The Hon. Allen Hunter is nominated to serve as an Active Retired Justice in Maine Superior Court and Hon. E. Paul Eggert and Hon. Keith Powers are nominated to serve as Active Retired Judges in District Court.

Harold Stewart II, of Presque Isle, is an attorney at Stewart Law Office, a division of Marden, Dubord, Bernier & Stevens, PA, LLC. Stewart specializes in insurance defense litigation, real estate and mediation services. He graduated from University of Maine Orono with a degree in chemical engineering with an emphasis in pulp and paper. He is a graduate of Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio. Deborah Cashman, of West Bath, is an assistant attorney general at the Office of the Attorney General, responsible for the prosecution of homicide cases throughout the State of Maine. Prior to her serving as assistant attorney general, she was the assistant district attorney in Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Androscoggin Counties. She also has practiced in the private sector at the Law Office of Deborah L. Potter, concentrating in the areas of criminal and family law. Cashman is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the University of Maine School of Law. Patrick Larson, of Bangor, is an assistant attorney general at the Office of the Attorney General, responsible for prosecution of felony drug cases. Prior to his serving as assistant attorney general he served as assistant district attorney in Penobscot and Hancock Counties. Larson also was a partner at Ferm, Collier & Larson, concentrating in the areas of criminal defense, family law, business litigation and real estate. Larson is a graduate of the University of Maine and Ohio Northern University College of Law.

Hon. E. Paul Eggert, of Portland, is a judge presiding in the non-jury general jurisdiction court, hearing a variety of civil and family matter cases. He was a member of the committee to establish a Unified Criminal Docket in Cumberland County, encompassing all criminal cases in both the District Courts and the Superior Court. He has administrative responsibility for the ninth District Court in both Portland and Bridgton. At Mittel, Asen, Eggert, Hunter & Carey, he litigated in all Maine courts and the U.S. District Court, representing clients in criminal, personal injury and divorce cases. Eggert is a graduate of University of Maine Orono and University of Maine School of Law.

Hon. E. Allen Hunter, of Caribou, served as a Justice in the Maine Superior Court from 2001 to 2015. Prior to that, he was an attorney at Solman and Hunter, P.A. in Caribou from 1976 to 2001. He also served as a Superior Court Bailiff in Spokane County Superior Court in Spokane, Wash. Hunter is a graduate of University of Maine Orono and Gonzaga University School of Law.

Hon. Keith A. Powers, of Cape Elizabeth, has been a Maine District Court Judge since 1998. He served as a trial lawyer at Preti & Flaherty Law Firm from 1974 to 1998. Prior to that, he was a law clerk for Justice Randolph Weatherbee of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Powers is a graduate of Brown University and University of Maine School of Law.

The Judiciary Committee of the 127th Legislature will hear all Gubernatorial Judicial nominations, and the Committee will schedule public hearings.

Governor Will Not Support Tax Conformity Tied to More Spending

03/01/2016 02:14 PM EST
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage announced today he will not support a tax conformity bill that is tied to taking $23 million for additional education spending from the Budget Stabilization Fund.

“I will not support good policy tied to the back of bad policy,” said Governor LePage. “After speaking today with leadership from both sides of the aisle, it is clear that socialist legislators will continue to hold up tax conformity to get more spending. It’s totally unrelated to tax conformity.”

The Governor said he hopes to work with the 128th Legislature to support tax conformity next year and make it retroactive to this year.