To the Editor: It’s time for a local option tax 



To the Editor: 

When traveling, how many of us are even aware of the additional taxes added to our bills? Do we decide to avoid visiting the 37 states that, in addition to traditional statewide sales taxes, also allow some form of local option tax? These “destination based” taxes (traditionally on sales, meals, rooms and liquor) provide funds directly to individual municipalities to be used at their discretion. Alabama, for example, collects 9 percent sales tax on purchases, 4 percent of which goes into local, not state, coffers, as does 3 percent of Nevada’s 8 percent overall sales tax, 2 percent of Washington’s 9 percent, 1 percent of Florida’s 7 percent, 4 percent of Colorado’s 7 percent… and 0 percent of Maine’s 5.5 percent. 

Yes, Maine, which has one of the lowest sales tax rates in the country, currently allows no local option taxes. All sales tax revenues go directly to the state. It’s time to change that – to lobby our Legislature to allow municipalities like ours to impose a local tax to help finance the essential infrastructure that our tourism-based economy demands. 

Is it reasonable to expect that the property taxes generated by the residents of Bar Harbor are sufficient to cover the escalating costs of the sewer, water, waste removal, police, fire and medical services essential to accommodate the hordes of visitors we “welcome” each year? How does this even make sense? Four million visitors last year – and we keep inviting more to come! Why shouldn’t these visitors be expected to help support the significant and costly impact their presence has on our community resources? Are we afraid they would object? Not come?  

It’s past time for us to actively petition our Legislature to allow this common fiscal solution to alleviate some of the burden that tourism places on local taxpayers and communities. It’s time to start a public conversation about how to do just that. What can we do to help? 

 

Ellen and Jim Grover 

Bar Harbor  

 

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