Why tax conformity really matters to Maine teachers and families

February 12, 2016 by

Sarah Austin blog 11-16-2015

“Propping up a tax break that reimburses teachers less than $20 as a true means of offering relief to teachers, who by the way spend on average $513 on school supplies each year, is just wrong. The reality is that legislators are not debating this meager tax break for teachers. The tax conformity provisions for teachers, students, and homeowners have vast bi-partisan support.”

The Maine Department of Administration and Finance issued a press release today with the astute headline “Tax conformity matters to Maine teachers and families.” While MECEP couldn’t agree more with this title, the rest of the department’s release seems to totally miss the bigger picture.

The release highlighted the teacher expense deduction included in the tax conformity package. This allows teachers to write-off up to $250 in out of pocket expenses they spend on school supplies for their class room. This deduction is worth at most $19.86 to a Maine teacher for tax year 2015 and will be worth even less in later years. Propping up a tax break that reimburses teachers less than $20 as a true means of offering relief to teachers, who by the way spend on average $513 on school supplies each year, is just wrong.

The reality is that legislators are not debating this meager tax break for teachers. The tax conformity provisions for teachers, students, and homeowners have vast bi-partisan support. The tax conformity item that is the focus of debate is the Maine Capital Investment Credit (MCIC) which offers an expensive and ineffective tax break for large corporations. This tax expenditure will cost $38.2 million over the next four years, and will jeopardize our ability to afford true relief for teachers by better funding our schools and class rooms.

In the absence of a supplemental budget proposal from the governor, legislators must consider spending priorities very carefully this session. This is why legislators are currently wrestling with whether to eliminate the MCIC for 2016 and beyond and redirect the funding to our schools.

If legislators don’t figure out a way to fully fund our schools this session, property taxes will increase and teachers will likely be reaching deeper into their pockets to help Maine’s kids get a quality education.

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