RADIO ADDRESS: Lowering the property tax burden for Maine families and seniors

Posted: September 07, 2018 | Senator Carpenter, Weekly Radio Address

This is Senator Mike Carpenter of Houlton. Thanks for listening.

As Mainers, most of us don’t mind paying our fair share so we can send our kids to quality public schools, drive to work on good roads and call on our police and firefighters in case of an emergency. However, Maine’s property tax burden has gotten out of hand. Seniors and families all across the state from Presque Isle to Portland deserve some relief so they can afford to make ends meet and remain in their homes.

Property taxes play an important role in funding our communities and essential services. The challenge is, these taxes are based on the value of your property and not your ability to pay for them. So Mainers living in large homes located on large swaths of land that have been in the family for generations or in areas that all of sudden become a tourist-haven overnight can get hit pretty hard.

In Augusta, I have made property tax relief one of my top priorities. I hear from constituents almost every day on this subject and I know there is more that we can do as a state to make things better.

Amid a tense government shutdown, we voted to increase Maine’s Homestead Property Tax Exemption by 33 percent, saving Mainers more money by bringing the total property tax exemption to $20,000 for residents who own their own home. While that was a good start, I knew it was certainly not the end of our work on this issue.

With tax conformity high on the agenda this year, lawmakers had the perfect opportunity to build on our success from the previous session. But when the governor presented his proposal for tax conformity to the Legislature, I was disappointed to see that prioritized the wealthiest Mainers, leaving those with high property tax burdens out to dry. I believe that  if we are going to rewrite Maine’s tax code, the number one item on the agenda ought to be property tax relief. Fortunately, my colleagues on the Legislature’s Taxation Committee worked hard to come up with compromise legislation that would lower property taxes, invest in families and support small businesses. I think they did an excellent job.

Last week, we passed a tax proposal that increases Maine’s Property Tax Fairness Credit by $10 million. With this tax credit, Maine taxpayers can get a portion of their property taxes or rent back when they file their taxes. Under this law, Maine seniors can save up to $1,200 in property taxes savings based on their income; Low-to-moderate income families can now save up to $750 on property taxes or rent. These modest savings can go a long way in families with a tight monthly budget or for seniors living on fixed income. I urge the governor to sign this important piece of legislation into law.

Maine still has a lot more to do to achieve property tax fairness in this state. These programs are just more tools to lower the property tax burden for seniors and families. Rest assured that I will continue to fight for property tax relief until we have exhausted all policy options.

This is Senator Mike Carpenter. Thanks again for tuning in and have a good day.