Weekly Democratic Address by Rep. Seth Berry (Bowdoinham): Huge tax cuts for the rich won’t help middle-class Mainers

Posted on September 15, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Audio link here.

Good morning, I’m State Rep. Seth Berry from Bowdoinham, where today we are celebrating the 250th birthday of our great town.

Thank you for tuning in this morning.

This week, we saw the latest U.S. Census data showing that Maine’s middle class is shrinking and that our economy is stagnant.

The new data confirms what families across Maine have been feeling lately. We work harder and harder for less and less. Some families are working two or three jobs to make ends meet, and have a little extra to buy new sneakers for the kids as they head back to school.

During the past two years Maine’s economy has slid backwards.

We are one of only a handful of states where the economy has shrunk.

Our personal income growth is dead last in the nation.

Thousands of Maine people are still looking for work.

Sometimes it feels like the American Dream we were raised to believe in is slipping away.

Yet Maine has incredible potential. Our story doesn’t have to end this way.

Maine Democrats believe families should be climbing into the middle class, not falling out of it. We have a vision for rebuilding Maine’s economy and opening the door of opportunity not closing it shut behind us.

To grow our economy, we need taxes to be fairer to middle class families. We need to make sure all Mainers have access to a quality education, affordable health care, and good job opportunities. We need to invest in innovation, R&D, and infrastructure. This is how we put more money back into our communities and businesses.

Middle-class families are the backbone of our economy. They are the small business owners on Maine Street; the teachers and childcare providers giving our kids a strong start; the nurses caring for us in the hospital; the farmers and fishermen bringing fresh local food to market.

The policies we pursue should be increasing opportunity for all hard working Maine people. Unfortunately, we’ve seen one Republican policy after another making it harder and harder for Maine’s middle class.

Republicans state lawmakers pushed hard for huge tax cuts for the rich during the past two years. If you’re a middle class Mainer, you can expect to get back under $100. If you are among the top 1 percent, you can expect to get back more than $3,000.

Worse, the tax cuts shift costs to local towns, schools, and property taxpayers. This budget is balanced on the backs of Maine seniors, working families and people with disabilities.

Have you noticed an increase in your property taxes or rent this year? If so, you may be starting to feel the impact of the cost shift.

While the tax cuts were passed as part of a budget negotiation, Democrats fought for them to benefit tens of thousands more middle class Maine families. We offered amendment after amendment to reverse the cost shift to property taxes and to make the system fairer.

And when we saw they were unaffordable, we were the first to propose that the huge tax cuts for the rich be suspended.

Rather than meeting us halfway, the Republicans went even further, resurrecting a TABOR-like measure that could further siphon funds from our schools, public safety, and our cities and towns in the long term. It will ratchet down our ability to pay for basic services that Maine people rely on and skew our tax code even more toward the rich.

Now, the chickens are coming home to roost. Some new estimates show that due to our budget decisions, between 50-80 percent of Mainers will experience an overall increase in state and local taxes.

Already, a single parent of two, working full time at minimum wage, pays nearly twice as high a state and local tax rate as an investor making three-quarters of a million dollars per year.

Increasing the burden on property taxes and middle class families will make this problem worse.

Maine should be building its economy from the middle out not from the top down.

Maine’s middle class needs leaders fighting for them in Augusta.

Thank you for listening. Have a great weekend. I’m Rep. Seth Berry from Bowdoinham.

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