REPORT: Paul LePage Benefiting from Florida Tax Breaks While Running to Be Governor of Maine
The New York Times reported this weekend that Paul LePage has been benefiting from Florida tax breaks reserved for permanent residents despite running to be governor of Maine.
Public records show that LePage and his wife have benefited from Florida’s tax laws while living in the Maine governor’s mansion and during his current campaign. They received Florida tax breaks from 2009 to 2015 and 2018 through the end of this year.
While the tax breaks raise eyebrows for both legal and ethical reasons, it also smacks heavily of hypocrisy — during his second term, LePage tried to rip away the homestead tax exemption for permanent Maine residents. And throughout this bid for an unprecedented third term, LePage is campaigning on preventing wealthy residents from moving to Florida for part of the year to take advantage of tax breaks.
“While he was governor, Mr. LePage tried to eliminate Maine’s homestead exemption, a proposal that would have denied an estimated 213,000 Mainers benefits similar to those he enjoyed in Florida,” the New York Times reported.
Read key excerpts from the article below.
As governor of Maine for two terms until 2019, Paul LePage, a Republican, gained a reputation as one of the pre-Trump era’s most unfiltered politicians.
He said he wanted to tell President Barack Obama to “go to hell,” and told the N.A.A.C.P. to “kiss my butt.” He made racist comments about drug dealers who supposedly travel to Maine and “impregnate a young white girl before they leave.”
Making a comeback attempt now against his successor, Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, Mr. LePage is focusing heavily in his campaign on a push to phase out Maine’s income tax. He argues that the change is needed to keep wealthy residents from moving to Florida for just long enough each year to take advantage of the Sunshine State’s tax breaks.
But Mr. LePage and his wife, Ann LePage, who have owned property in Florida for over a decade, have themselves benefited from that state’s tax laws while living in the Maine governor’s mansion, and again as he campaigns to return to the job. From 2009 to 2015, and also from 2018 through the end of this year, the couple received property tax breaks reserved for permanent Florida residents, public records show.
But this is not the first time the LePages have faced scrutiny over such a tax matter — in 2010, Florida officials fined Mrs. LePage $1,400 before rescinding the penalty — and Mr. LePage’s focus on taxes in the current campaign for governor could open him up to attacks from Democrats.
But while Mr. LePage said that he and his wife were in Florida for only a couple of months a year, they have painted a different picture for Florida’s tax collectors over the years.
In his final months as governor, Mr. LePage told reporters in November 2018 that he had a home in Florida and planned to move there because the state had no income tax. But by that time, records show, he and his wife had already claimed a homestead exemption on their Ormond Beach property — indicating that Florida had been the primary residence of Maine’s governor and first lady since March 2018, when they bought the home.
The couple have rented a home in Edgecomb, Maine, since 2020, and Mr. LePage has been campaigning in the state for much of the past year. But it was not until this June that Ann LePage informed a property appraiser in Florida that she and her husband were no longer residents of that state, according to the county appraiser’s office. The tax break will stay in effect through the end of this year, according to an official in the appraiser’s office in Flagler County, Fla., which handled the matter.
Jon Alper, a Florida lawyer who specializes in asset protection, said the circumstances of the LePages’ homestead exemption claims were “certainly atypical.”
The LePages have struggled with tax issues while toggling between the two states for more than a decade.
In 2008, while Mr. LePage was mayor of Waterville, Maine, his wife bought a home in Ormond Beach, not far from the home they would buy a decade later in the same city. She claimed the Florida homestead exemption even though she was also claiming a homestead exemption on a house she owned in Waterville. Both states require homeowners to certify that a property is their main residence in order to qualify for the exemption.
Mr. LePage’s campaign proposal to eliminate Maine’s state income tax has prompted criticism from some Democratic officials that local governments would be forced to raise property taxes to offset costs.
While he was governor, Mr. LePage tried to eliminate Maine’s homestead exemption, a proposal that would have denied an estimated 213,000 Mainers benefits similar to those he enjoyed in Florida, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Maine Center for Economic Policy.