Fuzzy math as LePage takes on towns and cities

BDN photo by Gabor Degre

Gov. LePage l BDN photo by Gabor Degre

Gov. LePage’s staff has been promoting a misleading, or at least personally meaningless, comparison.

As those of us who have been following the news know, the governor’s proposed budget would zero out municipal revenue sharing while cutting income tax rates.

And in arguing for this budget plan, his team put out comparisons by town of income tax cuts and revenue sharing cuts.

Their implication is that, when total income tax cuts for the town are more than the revenue sharing cuts for the town, each person and each family will come out ahead.

But that logic is flawed. The math is fuzzy.

That’s because these aggregate data do not show how anyone would come out personally — even without taking any property tax increases or other budget changes into account.

What makes this fuzzy math?

The problem is that the income tax figure is for the taxes paid by everyone in your town. But some pay more in taxes and some pay less. Those differences can be substantial.

If you live in Bangor, the aggregate in income taxes paid before and a proposed cut in income taxes is skewed by Stephen King. According to a 2013 report, King made $20 million.

Even without such an extremely high earner in a town, the comparison between the aggregate income tax cut and aggregate cut in revenue sharing just isn’t very meaningful for one particular resident or family.

Besides which, to understand the impact of the budget on you or someone else, you’d have to look at all the other parts of the budget involving programs, state taxes and local taxes.

The next time you see or hear this comparison, remember — it’s fuzzy math.

What’s more meaningful?

Here are some resources and analyses.

1. A blog, with many reference documents on the Maine budget and tax plan.

2. Al DiMillo’s analysis of the governor’s tax proposal.

3. The below explanation of revenue sharing in Bangor by Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.