To the editor:
During Maine's economic crisis, which has continued for the entire 45 years I've lived in the Pine Tree State, I've always thought adding a penny or two to the sales tax a viable way to help our state government. We need a lot that this government does.
Highways, for example. I recall the day, having purchased a pedometer to eventually be able to measure a distance I needed to walk occasionally for some volunteer work I do on the Appalachian Trail, I inadvertently left it in my pocket when I drove my bus from Ellsworth to Bar Harbor.
My route went partly over the Hulls Cove portion of Route 3, probably the state's busiest tourist and commuting roadway with a couple of exceptions, such as Route 1 on the way to L.L. Bean -- the state's most popular tourist attraction -- and I95 as it brings all traffic into Maine from down below. It's also a very bumpy section of road with the old pavement-connection lines from an ancient cement roadway creating many of those bumps.
On that particular day, I checked my pedometer after driving through Hulls Cove and noted that I had taken about 1,100 steps without leaving the driver's seat -- fascinating way to get in your daily walk. I must have driven slower on the way back out of Bar Harbor or the northbound lane must have fewer bumps, many of which are at least 30 years old, because I only took 600 steps.
That and most other roads in Maine can use a good bit of fixing.
But when I read the governor allegedly exempted the skiing industry and real-estate industry, on sales of high-priced homes, from the restructuring of the sales tax passed last year by the legislature, I wondered. I've always supported Mr. Baldacci -- even attended his spaghetti suppers. But if I can pay an extra five cents on a purchase to help the state's money situation, why can't those who ski or buy expensive homes?
There is to be a citizen-driven referendum next November to see if the people of Maine want the legislators' and governor-approved sale-tax restructuring to become law. I was against the idea of such a referendum. But if the allegations of what I think would be scandalous wrongdoing by the governor in helping those wealthy who have financially aided his political career are true, I'm in favor of the referendum.
We can all pay a bit more sales tax to help our state -- including the wealthy business community and their affluent customers.
Milt Gross' Magic City Column