- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

BANGOR, Maine (AP) - Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday he doesn’t believe that his effort to put Maine on the path toward eliminating the income tax will be successful this year but that will only give him ammunition against lawmakers in next year’s election.

The Republican governor, who was re-elected to a four-year term last year, is seeking to ratchet down the income tax in his more than $6 billion budget package and also plans to send the Legislature a proposal this session to amend the constitution to ensure that future state revenues go toward gradually eliminating the tax.

The governor told attendees at a luncheon Wednesday for a conservative think tank that lawmakers will likely block his proposed amendment this year. But the “war is more than one battle,” he said, promising to spend the rest of his days in office “going after and criticizing” anyone who stands in the way of his plan.

“Next year is an election year,” LePage told the roughly 70 people at the Maine Heritage Policy Center Luncheon at the Cross Insurance Center. “And I will spend the rest of my time as governor fighting the battle of eliminating the income tax and lowering energy costs.”

LePage has been traveling the state to try to garner support from organizations and the public for his plan to reduce the individual income tax rate from 7.95 percent to 5.75 percent by 2019 and the top corporate rate from 8.93 percent to 6.75 percent by 2021.

He says that doing that will encourage more young people to settle in Maine. He argues that putting more money in residents’ pockets through the income tax cut will spur economic growth.

“This budget is going to be the highest, fastest wage increase that all Mainers are going to receive,” he said Wednesday.

But he faces skepticism from some conservatives over his plan to pay for it in part by raising and expanding the sales tax.

Meanwhile, Democrats have pledged to fight for a “better budget deal,” saying LePage’s proposal mostly benefits the rich residents and big businesses. They’re also fiercely opposed to LePage’s plan to eliminate revenue sharing, which they say will lead to higher local property taxes.

Despite that, Matthew Gagnon, chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, said he believes this year is the best opportunity to get strong conservative policies through the Legislature. Republicans are now in control of the state Senate and LePage is coming off a big election win in November.

“I think there’s a real chance we can get some stuff done,” Gagnon said. “It’s going to be a big year.”

Democrats are the majority in the House.

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Follow Alanna Durkin at https://www.twitter.com/aedurkin

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