In town hall tirade, Gov. LePage gets fundamental tax facts completely wrong

BDN File

At a town hall that he held in Fort Kent last night to promote his plan to give a massive new tax break to Maine’s wealthiest 2%, Gov. LePage repeatedly and condescendingly made false claims about how taxes work in Maine.

LePage apparently doesn’t understand that the 3% surcharge put in place with the passage of Question 2 in November only applies to annual income over $200,000. In other words, under current law, someone making $200,001 a year would pay only three cents total in additional taxes.

Here’s the exchange:

“Anybody who makes $200,000 family income, in the state of Maine, pays 10.15%, the highest income tax,” declared LePage, in response to a question on his budget priorities.

“No, that’s not correct, because 3% of that is only on the incremental revenue above 200,000,” correctly pointed out an audience member.

Instead of admitting his mistake, the governor doubled down.

“It’s for the full 200,000. It’s ten percent of the full amount, sir. It’s not incremental, it’s the top dollar. Once you hit $200,000, you are paying 10. If you’re paid $200,001, you are paying 10.15% after your deductions. Sorry, that’s the way it works,” said LePage.

You really have to listen to this audio provided by an audience member to believe it:

It is absolutely horrifying that the governor of our state doesn’t know how taxes work. This isn’t on the same level as his oft-repeated lies about millionaires leaving the state because of tax policy (they aren’t) or rich people moving to New Hampshire (more are actually moving here). This is a bedrock part of our tax system (and of his budget) of which he is obviously completely ignorant.

It’s not like the surcharge is some new and different policy element. This is how tax brackets have always worked: you pay the higher rate only on income over a certain level.

Perhaps this misunderstanding on Gov. LePage’s part explains some of his fervency in attempting to overturn the referendum. If he thinks people making $250,000 a year (those poor souls) are being taxed an additional $7,500 instead of the actual $1,500, I guess his over-the-top defense makes some small amount more sense.

For the record, even with the surcharge, the wealthiest 1% in Maine still pay a lower overall effective tax rate than the middle class. We have a way to go before tax rates are fair and equitable.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike is Maine's longest-writing political blogger and explores state politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center.