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L.R. 492: Governor LePage's Unconstitutional Proposal


 L.R. 492, is a  bill the LePage administration submitted recently to clarify the law exempting some aviation companies from paying property taxes.
The language of the bill is not yet public, but George Gervais, Gov. Paul LePage's commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said Wednesday that it is designed to ensure that the law exempting aviation uses is applied consistently.
 -Steve Mistle  Portland press Herald
What Governor Lepage and the state's  Department of Economic and Community Development  are proposing is is a violation of the Home Rule Amendment of the Maine State Constitution, providing that property taxes are included in the charters of municipal corporations. There cannot be anything more clearly " local and municipal in character" than property taxes- which are based on property located within the municipality and are justified as payment for services that the municipality provides to the property owner.

Article VIII.

Part Second.

Municipal Home Rule.

Section 1.  Power of municipalities to amend their charters.  The inhabitants of any municipality shall have the power to alter and amend their charters on all matters, not prohibited by Constitution or general law, which are local and municipal in character.  The Legislature shall prescribe the procedure by which the municipality may so act.

LePage is suggesting a mandate for all municipalities and so it is not exclusive to the "quasi" situation in Brunswick which the Portland Press Herald reports as one in which one municipality (Brunswick) is charging property taxes for property located in another municipality (The MRRA).

The MRRA is described as a "quasi-municipal agency" by author Steve Mistle , with "quasi" being a new word function that instantly legalizes anything what so ever - or at least is  intended to give that impression. Or as the MRRA describes itself on its website, it is a “public municipal corporation by State law (not a local unit of government)- in other words local governance that is not locally governed as established by the state, which grants unto itself the authority to govern this local ( municipal) government.

Being that the property for which Brunswick is charging property taxes is not located in the municipality of Brunswick, the tax is not local in character since the term "local" as applied to municipalities means within the jurisdiction of the municipality- ie within the geographical borders of the municipality. In order for the MRRA to charge property tax on the property that is within its jurisdiction, the local side of this "quasi concoction" would have to charge property taxes to the state side of the quasi concoction's identity. This is a bit problematic because laws governing what the state government can do are different from laws governing what local governments can do and even the term "quasi" will not magically make that go away.

The constitution also states :
GENERAL PROVISIONS Section 21. State mandates. For the purpose of more fairly apportioning the cost of government and providing local property tax relief, the State may not require a local unit of government to expand or modify that unit's activities so as to necessitate additional expenditures from local revenues unless the State provides annually 90% of the funding for these expenditures from State funds not previously appropriated to that local unit of government. Legislation implementing this section or requiring a specific expenditure as an exception to this requirement may be enacted upon the vote of 2/3 of all members elected to each House. This section must be liberally construed.
So what LePage is suggesting is that all the taxpayers in Maine should have to pay for 90% of the property tax waiver that Lepage is suggesting should be mandated for a government preferred industry- aviation- which repeats what is wrong with the MRRA- a municipal corporation that is paid for by all the taxpayer of Maine under the pretense that jobs located in the geographical area of the former naval base benefit the entire state. Why should jobs located in that area benefit the entire state and not so for jobs located anywhere in the state? Kestrel Industries is not in the transportation business- it just builds the planes and even that in another state.

The Home Rule Amendment leaves the authority for economic development at the local level where the effects of that development are the greatest.That's the way it should be. Each area has industries from which it derives the highest impact of benefit of that industry within the entire state. That high impact benefit is "local in nature"
Section 2
. Construction of buildings for industrial use. For the purposes of fostering, encouraging and assisting the physical location, settlement and resettlement of industrial and manufacturing enterprises within the physical boundaries of any municipality, the registered voters of that municipality may, by majority vote, authorize the issuance of notes or bonds in the name of the municipality for the purpose of purchasing land and interests therein or constructing buildings for industrial use, to be leased or sold by the municipality to any responsible industrial firm or corporation.

Governor Lepage seems to be suffering from the state deficit syndrome. Here's a  suggestion for you Lepage- If you want to make the laws more consistent- then that which should be the measure of consistency is our constitution. and a novel idea- Dismantal The unconstitutional Maine State Inc- that vast network of corporations that serve as "instrumentalites of the state" and are justified by saying the magic words, "economic development" ,and which all together comprise an  "enterprise" by standards defined in the Patriot Act:

(4) “enterprise” includes any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity
Maine State Inc, has remained largely unaccountable to the taxpayer since its birth with the Maine Development Foundation in 1977, although it has expanded almost every year at an unknown total cost to the taxpayer and by now might be  in control of the highest concentration of capital within the state- which it redistributes to its favored industries. The Department of  Economic and Community Development, which is trying to put forth an unconstitutional mandate for state control over local property taxes is just one part of the vast Maine State Inc. Who or what - if not Maine State inc- should be accountable to Maine's consistent placement of "last" in Forbes list of best states for business?

If Maine stopped playing the bribe game which is the underlying reason for the proposed L.R. 492, we might not be able to attract those companies that demand bribes of every form and nature- but we might attract a new breed of businesses hungry for a fair playing field for all. And that might even make Maine one of the most interesting states for growing a business.

Maine State Inc is a violation of Article IV part Third Section14 of the Maine State Constitution
Section 14.  Corporations, formed under general laws.  Corporations shall be formed under general laws, and shall not be created by special Acts of the Legislature, except for municipal purposes, and in cases where the objects of the corporation cannot otherwise be attained; and, however formed, they shall forever be subject to the general laws of the State.
Full Disclosure; I am not a lawyer- but I do understand the English language in which our state constitution is written.


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