That's because a local sales tax would cause any town that passed one to experience not only a loss of smart-mouth columnists and poor-mouth welfare recipients, but lots of businesses that don't need the added expense and hassle. What car dealer, furniture store, appliance retailer, or home-improvement outlet would remain in a place that puts them at a competitive disadvantage? New businesses that would be subject to the increased sales tax would flock to locations content to have the jobs they'd create without taking any additional tax bite. And along the border with New Hampshire, which has no sales tax at all, any municipality that succumbed to the lure of the local option would find its business district as empty as a politician's promises of tax relief.
In short, this idea is a scam. It might produce a few extra bucks for Portland, South Portland, Kittery, and Freeport, with their destination shopping districts. It could possibly turn a buck or two for tourist traps like Bar Harbor, Camden, and Old Orchard Beach. Even my new hometown of Carrabassett Valley could benefit from shaking down skiers each winter for that extra penny. But for more than 400 other municipalities in Maine, the local option means their residents would be paying more but receiving nothing in return — because the money goes to the city or town that collects it, not to the place where the person who paid it lives.
"Your property tax bill wouldn't go down," wrote that farsighted and about-to-be-canned journalist back in 2002. "In fact, property taxes would almost certainly go up, if for no other reasons than . . . declining state aid to local schools. And you'd have less money to pay those additional taxes because you'd have already been squeezed for another penny every time you spent a buck."
That guy was right back then. He still is.
Perhaps you feel otherwise. If so, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll explain why you're wrong.
: Talking Politics
, Bangor Daily News, Kennebec Journal, Eliot Cutler