If I were a young person who’d just earned a degree in teaching, and I was sitting there, drinking a cup of coffee with a friend, contemplating what I wanted to do next in my life, staying in Maine would probably feel like a pretty big sacrifice.
For one thing, teachers in Maine make substantially less than teachers other places, often earning up to ten thousand dollars less per year than their counterparts in other states. That’s a lot to ask anybody to give up.
This pay gap has an impact on all of us, not just the teachers.
For kids, school can sometimes be an incredible place to learn and connect with other students your own age, but frankly, it can also be pretty awful. Especially when the teachers are overworked and underpaid.
This is urgent.
If we can’t pay good teachers what they’re worth, families won’t want to make their lives here either, and Maine towns will continue to wilt and evaporate.
The tax plan proposed by Question Two looks like a good solution to me.
If it passes, the measure will slightly increase income taxes on the richest 2% or so of Maine households, adding a 3% “surcharge” on taxable income over $200k. In other words, for every $1,000 in income over $200K, high earning taxpayers would pay an additional $30.
The rest of us won’t get our tax bills raised at all.
What we will get is a better school system and a lighter burden on our local real estate taxes, which are already arduously high in a lot of places. The measure would generate an estimated $157 million more for Maine’s public schools, helping more than 180,000 public school students across the state.
This isn’t a panacea. Nothing could be. But it’d help.
If Maine still had some booming corporate industries the way that Alaska, which has no state income taxes at all, still has oil, we could probably squeeze a lot of the money we need out of the corporations themselves. But we don’t. With a few notable exceptions, paper and textiles are gone.
This problem is on us to solve. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with making Maine’s wealthiest residents cough up a bit more in taxes.
But, if we increase taxes on Maine’s highest earners, won’t the wealthy buy less stuff and invest less in building our local economy?
If their taxes go up, won’t Maine’s rich people leave?
No. I’m pretty sure they won’t. Even if your household is clearing a full $300k in annual income, we’re still only talking about an extra $3k in taxes.
The worst thing I can foresee happening is that a wealthy family might put off going on a vacation or might invest less money into a local business venture. Even if they do, however, when it comes to the future of our state, I really believe that helping to improve Maine’s schools is the best investment imaginable.
This shouldn’t be a divisive measure. Nobody’s calling for a class war. This isn’t a question of us vs. them – pitting Maine’s penniless masses against our state’s wealthy landowners.
This is about all of us in Maine coming together as a community to solve our common problems, each of us contributing what we can toward improving Maine’s public schools.
When you’ve got millions, a few thousand is chump change.
When you don’t, it can mean the world.
I’m planning to vote Yes on Question Two, and I hope you’ll choose to do so as well.