ME Republicans introduce Tax Me More bill

In what is perhaps a political gambit, Republican lawmakers call for a service where citizens can donate to spending programs over state website.

Call this political bravery - or stupidity. And from a Republican no less. The Bangor Daily News reports that Rep. Scott Lansley is proposing a Web site that would allow citizens to donate money to their favorite state government programs - for people who just think their tax refund checks are too high.

It has a good name too - the Tax Me More Fund.

"I got a lot of people who laughed about it at first and then said that’s a good idea and signed on as co-sponsors," Lansley said last week. He said the name makes a broader political point.

"People are either going to be hypocrites about it and not do it, or they are going to be out there saying, ‘I should pay more taxes for this or that program,’" he said. "Well, if you think that a program needs more money, here you go, pay more in taxes through this fund."

Not sure the representative has worked the logic all the way through this proposal. Indeed, Sen. Joe Perry, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Taxation Committee, laughed when informed of the measure, the News reported.

He said it is clear the bill is not "serious" but an attempt to make a political statement. "I think he is looking for a way to make a statement about the tax burden here in Maine," Perry said. "I don’t think this bill will be taken very seriously."

The measure is truly looking-glass because it has all Republican sponsors (plus one independent). Republicans lining up behind a bill to increase people's tax bills? In fact no bill at all is needed, says Finance Commissioner Becky Wyke: "There are provisions for the state to accept gifts." And the state's Web site can put up a system to accept donations to different programs without legislative authorization.

In an e-mail follow-up to an interview, Wyke said a 1975 law allows gifts to the state, with the governor "authorized to accept in the name of the state any and all gifts, bequests, grants or conveyances to the state of Maine." She does not recall any organized effort to get Mainers to contribute to the state and is doubtful it will result in significant contributions.

"We have the income tax checkoffs for several programs," she said, "and they don’t generate a lot of money."

So what's behind this Republican initiative to increase taxes? The cost-cutting party probably wants to show that Mainers have little apetite for digging into pocketbooks to fund programs and if they have such little support, perhaps they should be cut altogether. The problem with the argument is that people expect their tax dollars to fund such programs and many people have no disposable income after taxes to fund programs tax dollars should already be paying for.

And says one reader on the newspaper website, giving to the state is an absurdly inefficient way to give:

If you donate $100 to say the Children's Trust Fund for example, they would get $100. If you give $100 to the state to then give to that fund, the fund might get $80 or less. The other $20 or more would go to state administrative costs. This points out what people are begining to realize, state government is costly, costly because it is bloated and inefficient.

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