Maine Gov. Paul LePage speaks to the media on July 28, 2014, in Lewiston, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Maine’s LePage sees a success story in Kansas

How desperate is Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) to scrap his state’s income tax? He’s vowed to veto every Democratic-sponsored bill that reaches his desk – regardless of merit – until his tax plan is allowed to advance.
 
As we discussed, it’s a deeply foolish approach. But Maine’s far-right governor thinks he has evidence to bolster his argument: Maine needs to eliminate its state income tax, he’s said, so it can duplicate the success seen in Kansas. Writing for the Bangor Daily News, Amy Fried noted yesterday:
An angered Gov. LePage, in a press conference last Friday, claimed that critics had it wrong on income taxes and Kansas. He said it simply wasn’t true that Kansas was having trouble and, in fact, Kansas was experiencing the fastest economic growth.
It’s really, really not.
 
Since Kansas cut taxes far more than the state could afford, job growth in the state has been far slower than the national average, and the state ranks near the bottom when it comes to adding new jobs.
 
Kansas’ economic growth has been poor. Its budget crisis is among the worst in the country. The state has seen its debt downgraded repeatedly. In some cases, Kansas can’t even afford to keep its schools open. State policymakers are now moving towards tax increases, realizing that Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) radical experiment hasn’t worked.
 
It’s against this backdrop that Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) believes his state should be more like Kansas. Confronted with evidence of failure, Maine’s governor doesn’t see a cautionary tale, so much as he sees success worthy of emulation.
 
Meanwhile, as the Washington Post’s Max Ehrenfreund recently explained, Kansas is dealing with its self-imposed crisis by finding new ways to punish the poor. Of particular interest is a new policy that limit cash benefits to welfare beneficiaries 
The legislature placed a daily cap of $25 on cash withdrawals beginning July 1, which will force beneficiaries to make more frequent trips to the ATM to withdraw money from the debit cards used to pay public assistance benefits. Since there’s a fee for every withdrawal, the limit means that some families will get substantially less money.
 
It’s hard to overstate the significance of this action. Many households without enough money to maintain a minimum balance in a conventional checking account will pay their rent and their utility bills in cash. A single mother with two children seeking to withdraw just $200 in cash could incur $30 or more in fees, which is a big chunk of the roughly $400 such a family would receive under the program in Kansas.
If the governor of Maine doesn’t realize what’s going on in Kansas, he really ought to take a closer look.
 

Kansas, Maine, Paul LePage and Sam Brownback

Maine's LePage sees a success story in Kansas