Typically, the programs are created to help depressed areas, but then political pressure causes them to spread over an entire state, he said.
"Everyone wants a piece of the pie," he said.
Maine appears to be following the same trend. >
>Originally sold as a way to spur development in the poor regions of northern and eastern Maine, Pine Tree Zones have expanded to include economically healthy communities in southern Maine, such as Wells and Kennebunk. The program started out with a focus on manufacturing sectors, but the Legislature recently expanded it to include a resort in Washington County.
The Portland area is one of the few places where the zones are prohibited because of the region's healthy income and unemployment data. Still, Westbrook officials and legislators were recently able to win an exemption for the Sappi paper plant to qualify, and midcoast lawmakers got a special Pine Tree Zone for Brunswick and 16 towns in the Brunswick labor market, including Topsham and Wiscasset.
Critics say the program is growing out of control and will evolve into a broad, new tax break for businesses that will over time shift the tax burden on to homeowners.
"It's part of the race to the bottom," said Chris Hall, a former Democratic senator from Bristol. "It shifts the burden on to those least able to afford to pay the taxes."In 2003, when the Pine Tree Zone bill was being debated in the Legislature, Hall had warned that the zone would expand to every part of the state because lawmakers want to please the business interests in their home districts.
13. Pine Tree Development Zone. "Pine Tree Development Zone" or "zone" means a specified area within the boundaries of a unit of local government, or within the boundaries of cooperating units of local government in a multijurisdictional application, the State that has been designated by the commissioner as a Pine Tree Development Zone in accordance with section 5250-J , subsection 3-A or 3-B.
2, eliminate the requirement for a local referendum on municipal bond issues.