Senator Hill, Representative Rotundo and esteemed members of the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs. My name is Justin Alfond. I am a resident of Portland, I am honored to serve as President of the Maine Senate and proud to represent Senate District 8 which includes most of Portland and the islands of Peaks, Cliff and Great Diamond. Today, I am pleased to appear before you in support of LR 2721, “An Act Related to the Report of the Tax Expenditure Review Task Force.”

Let me start by saying how surprised I am that revenue sharing has become such a political issue. Revenue sharing is one of the most direct ways that we as legislators can support the communities we represent. Each of us was sent to Augusta to make sure our neighbors back home have good schools, safe neighborhoods, and paved roads. And revenue sharing is not only one of our only tools, it is one of the best tools we have to support our towns.

So I’m surprised and disappointed when I hear things like ‘revenue sharing is welfare for towns.’ You and I know first-hand how inaccurate and unhelpful that label is. Because, when we talk about cutting or eliminating revenue sharing, what we’re really talking about is raising property taxes on our constituents.

Let’s be clear. We are not going to save money by cutting revenue sharing. This is a classic false choice – if we break our promise of revenue sharing, we will simply be shifting the costs to our towns; and our homeowners and business property owners will pay the price. I don’t believe anyone here wants to do that, no matter which political party you belong to.

Luckily, we don’t have to. If you want to help your constituents back home, I urge you to support the bill in front of you. Revenue sharing ensures our communities keep local control. It continues a partnership between state and local governments that was started over 40 years ago, in 1972. It funds critical items, like schools and public safety.

And it fulfills a promise that all of us – Democrats and Republicans alike – made to towns last session when we passed the biennial budget.

Everyone on this committee and almost all of our colleagues made a promise to our constituents back home that they would receive $65 million in revenue sharing next year. If we don’t pass this bill, we will be virtually eliminating this property tax relief program for our towns. This program was $120 million program in 2007. Without this bill, next year it will be just $20 million.

I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to face my neighbors and constituents this summer and tell them that their towns are going to see another 60% reduction in revenue sharing, and that their property taxes are going to go up as a result. I want to support my communities, and I know you want to, too.