Maine taxes not meeting needs; federal funding can help

Douglas Rooks

Maine’s municipal revenue sharing program is in bad shape. Former Gov. Paul LePage tried to get rid of it, and succeeded in reducing it to just 40% of its original size as part of his unrelenting drive to cut state spending.

While little known to the public, revenue sharing has an interesting history. It’s considered vital to town and city budgets, because it’s about the only form of state aid selectmen and councilors can spend any way they want, or, to put it in fiscal terms, it’s flexible – no mean virtue in a time of upheaval like ours.

Revenue sharing is a product of Gov. Ken Curtis’s reforming zeal way back in 1969, when the Great Society still echoed and Republicans legislators helped push through the first state income tax. An attraction of the new tax, added to the 1951 sales tax, was that the state directly shared all the revenues, originally 5% from both taxes.