Submitted by Sen. Jeff Timberlake (R-Androscoggin) and
Sen. Matt Pouliot (R-Kennebec), Assistant Senate Republican Leader
Our highest priority in the Legislature regarding the Chamber’s members is to keep Maine businesses open. As both business owners and legislators, we understand the need to balance our economic needs with concerns for the public health. In all our years in the business world, neither of us has ever encountered a business owner or manager that does not want to do everything they can to keep their employees and customers safe.
Knowing this, we will continue to fight to allow businesses to open safely. They are responsible. They know how to do their job. Government needs to stand back and let that happen.
Our legislative priorities will follow that view. When it comes to regulatory restrictions, new fees, and more taxes, we will continue to work to unburden Maine workers and their employers and allow small business to grow, to succeed, and to prosper.
The pandemic has made worse a problem that we all deal with on a regular basis. The cost of doing business is always going up and many of the issues brought on by COVID-19 have made that situation far worse than normal. We need to make sure that we are not passing more burdens on to local employers in the form of new rules, regulations, and restrictions.
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The administration has said repeatedly that it will not raise taxes on Maine people, and we intend to make sure that this promise is fulfilled.
Recently, for example, during a meeting with the administration, we were informed the balance could not be balanced without taxing funds provided by the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). To raise these millions of additional dollars, the administration intends to avoid adjusting Maine’s tax code to bring it into conformity with federal tax laws. Specifically, state taxes would be levied against the PPP funds that had already been sent to tens of thousands of Maine businesses, even though the federal law that created this program did not intend that states levy any taxes on the money.
The Maine Revenue Services estimated the cost to the Maine business community would be in excess of $100 million, leaving many employers without the reserve they set aside to weather the leaner winter months. They had already received these federal funds with no expectation they would include a new tax liability.
We have made it very clear publicly that Republicans in the Legislature will not settle for anything less than full conformity with the federal tax code. This includes dropping the idea of taxing PPP grant money.
It is our hope, and our goal, that both houses and both parties in the Legislature, along with Governor Mills can work together collaboratively to find solutions to Maine’s budget problems without increasing our already high tax burden. There is nothing that prohibits us from sitting down and working out the details with a sense of trust and cooperation.
Maine’s small businesses, their employees, vendors, and customers understand the need to keep one another safe from COVID-19. At the same time, we understand the need to make changes to how we do business in order to better guarantee the safety of all of us. As Republicans in the State Legislature, we will continue to fight to allow businesses to do what they know how to do and trust them to act in the best interests of all of us.