Friday, October 6, 2023

Jane Pringle: Providing more meaningful property tax relief for Mainers who need it

By State Rep. Jane Pringle

It has been an honor to represent part of Windham in the Maine House of Representatives this year. I was pleased that, despite the significant challenges that we are facing as a state, we were often able to come together to find solutions to improve the lives of all Mainers. This includes taking steps to provide more meaningful property tax relief.

State Rep. Jane Pringle
Last year, before I began serving my term, the Maine Legislature created the Senior Property Tax Stabilization Program, which allowed Maine residents over the age of 65 to “freeze” their property taxes indefinitely, with no limits based on income or property value. The intention behind this program was noble. Many of us here in Windham have seen our property taxes increase significantly in recent years, and retired folks on fixed incomes have been impacted particularly hard.

Unfortunately, we discovered this year that the program had many unintended consequences, including that it would have greatly increased property taxes for those not eligible for the program. It also put an unsustainable financial strain on towns like ours. Many were facing significant revenue shortfalls because of the program, which would have forced them to make tough choices about cuts to other essential services.

To fix this, the Maine Legislature worked on a proposal that received bipartisan support in the Taxation Committee before it was included in the supplemental budget that we passed in July. This measure repealed the stabilization program and expanded two existing, highly successful relief programs instead.

First, it increased the Property Tax Fairness Credit for Mainers 65 or older from $1,500 to $2,000, providing money directly back to folks who need it. It also expanded income eligibility so more middle-income Mainers will benefit. And it made a change to ensure that the benefit amount won’t be reduced even after a spouse passes away.

Second, it expanded the Property Tax Deferral Program, a lifeline loan program that can allow older Mainers to keep up with their property taxes without putting their homeownership at risk. It raised the maximum income to qualify from $40,000 to $80,000 and increased the maximum asset test to $100,000, so more folks can qualify and utilize the program if needed.

Together, these proven, fiscally responsible programs will be able to target better property tax relief to the members of our community who need it the most, without passing the costs onto other taxpayers or the town. Our whole community benefits when those who need help staying in their homes can do so. These programs will go a long way to help us accomplish that.

If any changes need to be implemented in the future to make these programs more effective, I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to find solutions.

There is much good bipartisan work going on in Augusta, which I hope to share with you in future columns. As always, please continue to share your thoughts and ideas with me at <

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