Bill to allow municipalities to add a tax on hotels and restaurants narrowly passes Maine House

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - A bill to give municipalities the option to add a tax to help raise funds narrowly passed the Maine House Tuesday 73-70.

It calls for letting cities and towns impose a 1% local sales tax on restaurants and hotels.

That tax would only be levied if residents approve it by referendum.

A portion of the money would be used to help fight the opioid problem.

Supporters say it taxes tourists and helps fund local maine municipalities.

"We need to build for a new economy," said bill sponsor Rep. Mike Sylvester, D-Portland. "We need to have our infrastructure repaired and replaced -- build new buildings and repair old ones. We need jobs. And we need to be able to raise money to do that. This does this in a steady stream of money for the service centers to be able to survive and for rural Maine to be able to have jobs."

Opponents say it's a regressive tax that will hurt Mainers.

"The other issue that I have with the bill is that in the Constitution Article 9 Section 9 says that the Legislature shall never surrender the power of taxation," said Rep. Bruce Bickford, R-Auburn. "And by allowing municipalities the opportunity to tax, then we're surrendering that power, we're giving it to the municipality."

The bill is expected to be tightly fought in the Senate too.