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Political Brew: COVID, murder trials, and Maine tax revenues

Our analysts Ray Richardson and Ken Altshuler agree on the Ahmaud Arbery verdict but differ on Kyle Rittenhouse.

MAINE, USA — The new COVID-19 omicron variant is provoking renewed fear and uncertainty worldwide, but Political Brew analysts Ray Richardson and Ken Altshuler agree it’s a sign that we all need to learn how to live with the continuing threat of COVID infections in the months and years to come.

“I heard a doctor one time say he believes everyone in the world will get COVID at some point. This is not going away,” Ken Altshuler said.

Ray Richardson agreed that the time-tested steps, such as social distancing and good hygiene, are essential.

“I think we need to be vigilant, let’s face it,” he said.

There was also general agreement with one exception on the murder trials of Kyle Rittenhouse and the three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.

Ray said he agreed with both verdicts. He said the trial of Arbery’s killers clearly warranted guilty verdicts.

“I found myself cheering when the verdict came out because those guys were so obviously guilty and deserve their fate,” Richardson said.

Altshuler agreed.

But they differed on the Rittenhouse trial.  

Richardson said the evidence showed it was a case of self-defense. The national media and others, including President Biden, made major errors early on in reporting the case and reacting to it.

Altshuler agreed regarding the trial of Arbery’s killers, but only partly agreed on the Rittenhouse verdict.

“I’m not suggesting there wasn’t an element of self-defense,” he said. “But Rittenhouse came to Wisconsin, provoked the incident that created the self-defense, and there has to be a penalty [for that].”

In Maine, both analysts said they would like to see Gov. Janet Mills use the latest forecast for a large tax revenue increase In the next fiscal year as a reason to reduce taxes, but neither said they expect it.

“We’ve got a very liberal Senate, very liberal House, and very liberal Governor,” Richardson said. 

“If Gov. Mills were smart, and from an economic standpoint, I don’t think that is, we would cut the income tax to 5%. If she did that, it would make national news, tell the nation Maine is serious about [not] having the fourth-highest tax burden in the country.”

Ken Altshuler said the revenue boost could have an impact on the race for governor because, with a strong revenue forecast, the incumbent governor would get credit for it among many voters.

He, too, would like to see some of the increased revenue used to reduce taxes in some form.

“I am not a big fan of checks … I am a fan of the idea of lowering the income tax rate and lowering the sales tax as well.”

Both analysts said if the governor and Legislature provide a significant tax reduction, they will be surprised. 

“I’d love to see her do it,” Altshuler, the Democrat, said. 

“Do I think she will? No.” 

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