It just don’t pay

By AL DIAMON  |  May 9, 2012

According to the Pew Center on the States, Maine joins about half the states in not doing enough to analyze the results of these government givebacks.

Did I say "not doing enough"? Sorry. Pew actually concluded Maine is "not meeting any of the criteria" for figuring out if tax-dodging Pine Tree Zones create jobs or the sales tax exemption for newspapers improves journalism.

According to Stateline, the Pew news service, a few states, notably Vermont, have begun examining tax breaks to see if they're producing any quantifiable returns. But none has dared to go so far as to treat the money lost to these exemptions the same way it treats other spending — by making those who receive the gifts justify their existence with each new budget.

That would be politically risky, since it's certain to annoy home owners, small businesspeople, beer-swilling journalists, and Bruce Poliquin. But even if over 90 percent of these arrangements turned out to be of some public benefit, that would still leave more than $600 million that's being handed out to those who don't deserve it.

That's enough to reduce taxes, build up the Rainy Day Fund, balance the human services budget, and cover the cost of those "corrupt" state workers LePage is complaining about.

It's time to take a serious look at all tax breaks, which must be why al Qaeda just sent me an email calling for an end to the tax exemption for churches.

Thanks to Capitol News Service for background used in this column. And also to the fine breweries that provided inspiration during the arduous writing process. And to the taxpayers of Maine for footing the bill. If you want to kick about that, email me at

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