Wednesday, April 23, 2014
AUGUSTA -- Maine's Majority, a frequent critic of Gov. Paul LePage, is raising questions about Treasurer Bruce Poliquin's use of the Maine Tree Growth Tax program to lower his property taxes.
In a news release Wednesday, the group alleges that it "is unclear whether Poliquin's use of the land actually upholds the requirements of the law."
The group released documents that show Poliquin enrolled 10 acres of a 12.3 waterfront peninsula in the program in 2004. The land near his Georgetown home was assessed at $1.8 million before he qualified for the tax break, according to documents posted by the group.
After the tax break, the property assessment dropped to $725,500.
State law requires those enrolled in the tree growth program to "manage tree growth classified parcels according to accepted forestry practices designed to produce trees having commercial value." A report to lawmakers in 2009 cites Poliquin's property as an example of a parcel that may not fully comply with the law.
"For several reasons, including difficulty of road access and the restrictions on timber harvesting according to the state's shoreland zoning regulations, the ability to harvest any timber on this property -- even if that was the interest of the landowner -- is extremely limited," the Maine Forest Service report states.
However, it goes on to say that as long as the parcel contains 10 acres, "it is eligible for enrollment in the tree growth tax program."
Still, Maine's Majority, which represents the 61 percent of Mainers who did not vote for LePage, are asking questions.
"There is considerable doubt whether Treasurer Poliquin is following the letter and intent of Maine's Tree Growth law," said Chris Korzen, executive director of Maine's Majority.
Poliquin did not return calls to his office or cellphone Wednesday.
In recent weeks, the Republican state treasurer has been accused by Democrats of two instances of possible ethics violations. Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, has asked the attorney general to rule whether Poliquin is eligible to serve as treasurer because the state constitution forbids sitting treasurers from continuing to conduct personal business.
Also, the Maine Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices alleging that Poliquin failed to disclose his business ties on a conflict of interest form.
In the 14 months he has been treasurer, Poliquin has been a frequent critic of Democratically controlled institutions such as the Maine State Housing Authority. He's also been critical of the Maine Bond Bank and state debts incurred under Democrats.
Susan Cover -- 620-7015