Note from Alex: Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague posted the following message on Facebook this morning and gave me permission to re-post it here.
It was announced last week that the state government has a surplus. Good news? Well, here is what actually happened:
First, Augusta (primarily through the governor and Republicans in the legislature) made severe cuts in revenue that had previously stayed in cities and towns all over the state. In Bangor, for example, all of the revenue from the sales tax, hotel tax, and restaurant tax is now shifted to Augusta. Even the dollars received from speeding tickets written by Bangor police officers have to go to Augusta. We were shorted about $3 million last year alone, which is a huge chunk of our budget.
Second, the state saved money by shifting costs to cities and towns. I am talking about everything from teacher retirement pension expenses to General Assistance costs. The state got to offload these expenses and the cities and towns had to pick them up, no questions asked and no choice in the matter. There was no net savings in the equation. Cost shifting does not equal cost saving yet that is what the governor has suggested they have done.
Many people have suggested that cities and towns like Bangor enact a local sales tax. We can’t. The state government does not allow it.
Is it any surprise that Augusta has a surplus when they’ve shifted expenses to property taxpayers and seized local revenue? I’m all for fiscal restraint and responsible spending, but I can’t figure out what the state has actually done to fix their own budget other than shifting the costs to property taxpayers. It’s a shell game.
PHOTO CREDIT: Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN