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Bristol Area Lions learn about the Maine Center for Economic Policy 10/10/2018

Posted by DS in club business.

Lion John Janell (left) thanks the Maine Center for Economic Policy Executive Director, Garrett Martin for his presentation.

On Monday, Oct.1, Maine Center for Economic Policy Executive Director, Garrett Martin explained the function of the MECEP organization.  They provide extensive research data, in many cases by State Senate District and House District on employment and poverty, education, health care, and social safety nets: Social Security, food assistance, and cash public assistance. 

Martin began by citing the $1.9 billion forfeited in Federal funds since 2011, that could have helped protect Mainers’ health and well-being, promote tax fairness, and boost the state’s economy. These funds would have injected up to $700 million into Maine’s economy and supported as many as 4,400 jobs annually. Maine even turned away Federal funding for screening and testing for colorectal cancer which did not require any State funds. 

The minimum wage increase in 2017 from $7.50 to $9.00 per hour boosted paychecks for the lowest-income Mainers by 10% and cut child poverty rate from 17% on 2016 to 13% in 2017 or from 43,000 to   33,000 children. Some studies showed that an increase in minimum wage may cut working hours, but that did not happen in Maine in either workers with no high school diploma nor those with no college qualifications.

The Maine Legislature has enacted a tax package in response to the federal tax overhaul signed into law in December.   The Republican package, to replicate the Federal tax plan would benefit the wealthy and profitable businesses, would cost $89.5 million for the next 2-year budget cycle.  The Democratic tax plan, expanded tax credits for low-and middle-income working families and increased property relief for homeowners and renters, would cost $51.5 million.  Neither side was able to muster the votes needed by the time the Legislature adjourned in May. The tax policy approved by the Legislature on August 30 is the result of negotiations that took place in the interim and only cost the state $26.8 million in lost tax revenue for the two-year budget cycle. 

The compromise law preserved the personal exemption of $4,150 per household member. The new standard deduction amounts for 2018 have increased to $12,000 for individuals and married couples filing separately, $18,000 for heads of household and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly and surviving spouses. For people age 65 and over an additional standard deduction of $1,600 for singles and $1,300 for each spouse in a married couple. Maine’s three personal income tax brackets of 5.8%, 6.75% and 7.15% remain unchanged. 

The law also increases the state’s property tax fairness credit, from $900 to $1,2000 for residents age 65 and over. Most of the benefit from this expansion will go to Maine households with income in the bottom one-fifth.  According to Martin, “The compromise is a win for Mainers who believe the state should chart its own course regarding tax policy.

The next meeting of the Bristol Area Lions Club will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5 at the Willing Workers Hall in New Harbor. The speaker will be Phil Averill who will explain the Pemaquid saw mill preservation project.  Dinner will be mac & cheese with ham, salad, and rolls, followed by chocolate cake and coffee. To make dinner reservations for that meeting, call John Janell at 563-7402. To learn more about the Bristol Area Lions Club, serving Bristol and South Bristol, call Walt Johansson at 677-2584.


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