Government

Attorney General Urged to Protect Maine’s Constitutional Rights

|Press Release from Maine House Republicans|

Legislators request AG Frey join bi-partisan group of 13 State Attorneys General in lawsuit to preserve Maine’s right to set its own tax policy

STATE HOUSE/REMOTELY – Rep. Amy Arata (R-New Gloucester) and Rep. Patrick Corey (R-Windham) have submitted a letter, signed by 36 other members of the Maine State Legislature, to Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey. The letter requests that he join a bipartisan group of 13 State Attorneys General in their lawsuit regarding the rule in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that bars states from using relief money to offset tax cuts. 

“It is important that Maine retains its constitutional right to determine its own tax policy,” said Rep. Amy Arata (R-New Gloucester). “It is important to all of Maine’s elected leaders and their constituents, the Maine people, that this get resolved.”

“The federal government is asking us to surrender control over our own tax policy,” said Rep. Patrick Corey (R-Windham). “The issues raised by thirteen others states are of great concern to Maine and if left unresolved, could jeopardize legislation that has already been passed.”

TEXT OF THE LETTER

April 21, 2021

The Honorable Aaron Frey
Attorney General, State of Maine
6 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0006

Dear Attorney General Frey:

We request that you join the bi-partisan group of 13 State Attorneys General in their lawsuit regarding the rule in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that bars states from using relief money to offset tax cuts.  The Maine Constitution clearly states in Article IX, Section 9: “The Legislature shall never, in any manner, suspend or surrender the power of taxation.”  West Virginia et. al. vs. US Department of the Treasury et. al., filed in Alabama District Court, will protect Mainers from having this constitutional right stripped away.

The Nature of the Action is thus:

  1. In this action Plaintiff States ask the Court to protect them from one of the most egregious power grabs by the federal government in the history of the United States.
  2. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”), signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021, includes a short – but incredibly impactful – provision, which impermissibly seizes taxing authority from the States. This provision, the Federal Tax Mandate, housed in Section 9901 of ARPA, sets up an untenable choice for the Plaintiff States.  They must either relinquish control over a core function of their inherent sovereign powers, or else, in the midst of a deadly and destructive pandemic, forfeit massive and much-needed aid that represents approximately 25% of Plaintiff States’ respective annual general budgets.
  3. Specifically, the Federal Tax Mandate disables States from decreasing taxes on their citizens for a period of over three years, while allowing them to increase taxes on their citizens and residents without restriction. The Federal Tax Mandate thus usurps the ability of the Plaintiff States’ citizens to reduce their tax burdens and creates an impermissible chilling effect on their elected officials’ willingness to do the same – based on a threat that the federal government may claw back some or all of the State’s share of critical ARPA funding.
  4. Never before has the federal government attempted such a complete take-over of state finances. The Federal Tax Mandate steps well beyond the constitutional bounds set forth in Article I of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, and offends the dignity of co-sovereign States in our federal system.
  5. The Plaintiff States oppose the coercive and unprecedented use of Congress’ spending power and seek relief from this Court to preserve their constitutional prerogative to enact tax policy in the best interests of their people.

Here in Maine, we recently passed a tax exemption on unemployment insurance for Mainers who received the expanded COVID-related unemployment benefit. That exemption was paid for with general fund dollars. However, the Federal Tax Mandate suggests that if any of the federal money expected to come to Maine is used in the departments from which the transfers for that exemption occurred, we are in violation.  Replenishing those departments while spending federal funds is indirectly using those funds for a tax reduction.  We must preserve our constitutional right to set Maine tax policy without risking the loss of federal funds.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Respectfully,

// signatories //