Municipal Bulletin Board
(from the May 2005 Maine Townsman)

STATE TAX BURDEN

Residents of Hawaii, Wyoming and Connecticut shoulder the heaviest state tax burdens in the nation, according to U.S. Census figures for 2004.

The least state taxes per person are paid by those living in Texas, South Dakota or Colorado,

Hawaii topped the list with taxes averaging $3,048 per person, more than double the per-capita rate in last-place Texas, which collected $1,367 for every man, woman and child.

The Census Bureau’s annual report, in which tax revenue is divided by a state’s population, showed the first- and last-place rankings for 2004 remained the same as in 2003. However, Wyoming moved to No. 2 in the country from No. 7 in 2003, and Minnesota dropped to No. 4 from No. 2. A few states had sizable shifts. Kentucky’s tax load lessened to 21st in the country, from 15th a year earlier. Reflecting greater tax loads, Illinois jumped up six states to rank No. 24, and Alaska moved up to No. 25 from No. 32.

Because the Census numbers don’t include tax levies by local governments, which often pick up certain state services, economists say a better measure of tax burdens nationwide is a snapshot of both state and local tax collections. The main reason Hawaii ranked No. 1 in the Census report is that public school education, covered largely by local government in other states, is strictly a state service.

All states collected more tax revenues last year, up 8.1 percent from 2003 for a total of $593 billion in 2004, the report showed. The last time all states showed increases in total tax revenue over a prior year was 2000. The lowest totals were in Alaska, North Dakota and South Dakota, and the most tax revenues were collected in the populous states of California, New York and Florida.

The tax burden is important because it helps determine a state’s business climate, carves a hole into taxpayers’ wallets and influences individual decisions on where to live. The tax burden weighs so heavily in some states that people have called the moving van to escape to a lower-tax state, according to a 2004 report by the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona nonprofit educational foundation.

Using Census data on state tax collections and state-to-state migration, the Goldwater study found tax burdens influenced millions of Americans to relocate to other states during the late 1990s. Ten states with the lowest tax burdens (Alaska, New Hampshire, Delaware, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Nevada, and Colorado) enjoyed a net gain of more than 1.3 million residents resulting from across-state migration, the report said.

An April report by the Tax Foundation, an organization that compiles rankings of tax burdens, showed Maine residents with the nation’s highest state and local tax burden,13 percent of income, while Alaska enjoyed the lowest, 6.4 percent. [Maine ranked 16 th in state per capita tax burden according to Census data]. But the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a tax-policy think tank, said the foundation’s rankings are flawed because they are based on estimates of state and local tax revenue, not actual collections, and overstate residents’ tax burdens. (By Kathleen Murphy, Staff Writer, Stateline.org)

GOVERNMENTAL ACCOUNTING II

Governmental Accounting II, a two day workshop sponsored by the Maine Municipal Tax Collectors & Treasurers Association (MMTCTA), will be held June 13-14 at the MMA building in Augusta. This course builds upon the Governmental Accounting I workshop that was offered in May.

Governmental Accounting II is a mandatory course for MMTCMA certification. The workshop runs from 9:00 a.m. til 4:00 p.m. both days.

Heather Hunter, deputy finance director for the City of Lewiston, teaches the workshop. She also instructs and designs accounting and business finance courses at Central Maine Community College in Auburn.

The registration fee is $80 for MMTCTA members and $95 for non-members. For more information, contact MMA’s Training & Affiliate office, 1-800-452-8786.

FLSA FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYERS

Maine Municipal Association will offer a half-day workshop on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on June 15 at the MMA building in Augusta. The workshop runs from 8:00 a.m. til 12:30 p.m.

This workshop is designed to provide an overview of this federal employment law as it applies to public employers. Larry Winger, Esq., author of the Maine Employers Handbook, will conduct the workshop.

Registration is $50. For more information, contact the MMA Training & Affiliate Office, 1-800-452-8786.

ELECTED OFFICIALS WORKSHOP

The final workshop on the spring/summer schedule for MMA’s Elected Officials Workshop series will be held June 21 at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

This workshop covers some of the basics for selectmen and councilors. It is particularly helpful to newly elected officials.

The workshop runs from 4:30 p.m. til 8:30 p.m.

Registration is $40, with newly elected officials attending for half price.

For more information, contact MMA’s Training & Affiliate office, 1-800-452-8786.

PB/BA WORKSHOP

An evening workshop for Planning Board and Boards of Appeal members will be held June 22 at the University of Maine in Presque Isle. This workshop is one of a series held by MMA in the spring and fall. The Presque Isle workshop will be the final one until fall.

The workshop is designed as a basic introduction to the various legal rules governing decisions made by planning boards and the boards of appeal.

The workshop runs from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Registration is $35. For more information, contact MMA’s Training & Affiliate office, 1-800-452-8786.