Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Survivor winnings could help the state

Published in the Portland Phoenix

Survivor: Gabon winner Bob Crowley hasn't really had time to settle back in to his home South Portland, and already he has told the local media he wants to use some of his $1.1 million payday to take his wife on a nice trip. But what about the rest of the money? We can be certain that the state's bean-counters are looking forward to Crowley's 2008 tax return — and its accompanying check.

State law imposes no special taxes on game-show winnings (or, for that matter, lottery jackpots) — the winner simply owes state income taxes on the full amount. Because Maine's highest tax bracket (8.5 percent) kicks in at $38,900 in earnings for a married couple, Crowley will have to pay roughly $93,500 to Maine Revenue Services (that's in addition to an estimated $385,000 he'll owe the IRS).

Maine's cut isn't nearly enough to cover the $4.25-million hole that resulted from an overly optimistic guess at how much Hollywood Slots would subsidize state spending. And it's not even close to paying for even one of the many cuts in the Department of Health and Human Services, nor the damage to the Corrections Department's budget (see Lance Tapley's story). But Crowley's winnings could help.

Crowley couldn't be reached to discuss what he would like his tax payments to go to, so here are a few ideas, which would restore programs cut in the governor's 2009 emergency budget proposal.

Grants to the New England Consortium of Arts Educator Professionals and the cultural New Century Community Program: $4840.

Child-advocacy funding for the Disability Rights Center: $7035.

State help for homeless shelters: $23,542.

State matching grants for local humanities programs: $3309.

Gambling-addiction treatment program: $35,000.

Monthly meetings of Maine's largest planning board, the Land Use Regulation Commission (instead of every other month, as Baldacci has proposed): $2310.

Improved data-keeping about habitat that is home to federally endangered species: $2000.

Funds for the Applied Technology Development Centers, touted as part of investments to expand Maine's economy: $9911.

Support for after-school programs designed to keep children healthy, safe, and learning: $1302.

Help to provide science-lab equipment to schools throughout the state: $3236. (Crowley might like this best of all, since he's a physics teacher at Gorham High School.)

We could do all that, and still have $1015 left over. What do you think the state should spend any or all of Crowley's tax money on? Weigh in at thePhoenix.com/AboutTown.