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Olympics Meets the Maine Legislature

by Jennifer Gray

The Event – Protecting the Sector

Maybe I’ve been watching too much of the Olympics but it feels like the nonprofit sector is in training for yet another contest. The Governor sent the Legislature a Valentine last week in the form of a memo attacking the nonprofit property tax exemption. While we haven’t seen a bill yet, it talks about taxing nonprofits on 50% of their assessed value. The figures not only include nonprofits but the larger holders of tax exempt property – federal, state and local government. This proposal, at its core, is very similar to his past proposals and we hope that it has the same fate – that the Legislature will reject it.

One of the targets of the Governor’s ire is land trusts, and his memo provides misleading data and conclusions.  For example, the memo states that “property tax exemptions within municipalities total more than $18 billion….” However, approximately $11.8 billion of the $18 billion is owned by the federal, state, or local government. It’s unlikely that state and municipal budgets will include property tax payments in the near future.

The Land Trust Network’s study is very informative and makes the point that  94.5% of land trust conserved lands is on the tax rolls.  Land trusts are paying property taxes or payments in lieu of taxes. In fact, land trust lands comprise .33% of the value of all tax exempt municipal land in Maine. Taxing land trusts will not result in a big boon to municipalities.

Nonprofits, including land trusts, make significant contributions to Maine’s communities including economic benefits. One in six Maine workers work for a nonprofit. Maine nonprofits contribute $11 billion to the economy annually. Taxing nonprofits takes money away from programs and services that make our communities more desirable places to live, work, and raise a family.

We’ve been practicing our testimony and fine tuning our talking points making sure that we’ll bring our A-game for the hearing. The nonprofit sector deserves a gold medal for its contributions to Maine’s economy and communities. You can be part of the gold medal team: go here to learn how you can speak up effectively on behalf of the nonprofit sector!

Did you see this coverage of the issue?

LePage distributes report on proposal to tax land trusts, nonprofits, WGME, February 18, 2018.

LePage policies, not land trusts, have driven up property taxes, Bangor Daily News, February 20, 2018.

Maine land trusts say governor uses bogus data in pitch to tax them, Portland Press Herald, February 20, 2018

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