On June 12, the Appropriations Committee approved Maine’s biennial budget. The bipartisan budget represents a step forward for Maine, as well as a return to the constructive, civil budget-making process that folks expect from state government. On June 14, the Legislature passed the budget, and hopefully Gov. Janet Mills will sign it shortly. Having taken this important step forward, I intend to continue Maine’s forward progress, drafting legislation over the next year to reform our tax code and implement the fairest income tax policy in the country.

Developing a strong, responsible budget — and winning support from both sides of the aisle — was a Herculean feat. Over the past five months, my colleague Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, led the Appropriations Committee as it built upon the budget proposal released by the governor back in February. During that five-month period, the 13-member committee took 1,154 votes on different lines of the budget. Of those votes, 1,146 were unanimous. Only eight were divided — a testament to their truly collaborative approach. We should all breathe a sigh of relief for this return to normalcy.

After we approve the budget, I am committed to building on this meaningful step forward. This summer and fall, I will draft legislation that will transform Maine’s tax code, making it far simpler and fairer. Currently, we have a hodgepodge of income, sales and other taxes, plus numerous exemptions. Millions and millions in tax revenue never makes it to the state’s General Fund — countless laws have been passed to funnel revenue streams in all directions. The result is inequality among our schools, crippling property taxes, crumbling roads and bridges and thousands of families living in poverty.

Our tax code used to be fairer, but over the years it has shifted to benefit people who inherit their wealth at the expense of ordinary folks. During World War II, the top tax rate in the U.S. was 94 percent, but since then taxes on the rich have fallen dramatically. The Reagan administration dropped the top tax rate all the way down to 28 percent, taking a greater share of income from poor families compared to wealthy ones and sending millions of people into poverty. Similar policies pursued by the Bush and Trump administrations made the problem worse.

It is time to create a more just society. When some people lack access to health care or education, we all suffer. By working together to help those who are suffering, we can build a safer and more prosperous world. According to a new report by Oxfam, 1 percent of Jeff Bezos’ fortune would provide health care to everyone in Ethiopia — 105 million people. Globally, by taxing the top 1 percent just half a percent more, we could educate 262 million children and provide health care to save the lives of 3.3 million people.

If we are to ensure that every kid has a fair shot, ordinary folks must be able to live dignified lives and wealthy folks must pay their fair share. In Maine, neither wealth nor geography should determine whether you can go to a good school, access quality health care, or travel on safe roads and bridges. I look forward to working with you in the coming months and years. You can always reach me at: David.Miramant@legislature.maine.gov or 287-1515.