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Governor’s Address: Let’s Prohibit Towns from Making Our Elderly Homeless

As we wrap up this legislative session, I am making our elderly a top priority. Unfortunately, they are not a priority for Democrats.

Senior citizens on fixed incomes struggle to pay rising property taxes. Municipalities are allowed under current law to foreclose and sell the property for the amount of taxes owed.

Consumers have many protections if a foreclosure involves a mortgage. When the bank forecloses, it sells the house and pays the homeowner any remaining equity after all debts are paid.

However, in a municipal foreclosure, when a senior citizen owns the home outright, those protections disappear. There’s no requirement that the municipality sell the property at market value and no requirement that the balance of the equity be returned to the homeowner.

We’re talking about people living on fixed incomes. Their home’s value is their only savings.

Our amendment to my bill, LD 1629, “An Act to Protect the Elderly from Tax Lien Foreclosures,” protects seniors facing foreclosure.

It requires that when a municipality forecloses on a homeowner age 65 or older, the property will be sold by an independent broker at market value. All of the town’s expenses and the broker fee will be paid from the proceeds of the sale, with the balance refunded to the former owner.

This makes the town whole while providing the senior with the rest of the home’s equity. The senior can avoid becoming homeless with some of their life’s savings.

Democrats say these foreclosures don’t happen enough to pass a law about it. But once is too often for this shameful practice to occur – and it’s already happened multiple times.

Think about that: if it rarely happens, then the amendment will not burden towns – as the Maine Municipal Association has argued.

Democrats are siding with the Maine Municipal Association, which is funded with property tax dollars. MMA Executive Director Stephen W. Gove and MMA’s lobbyist Kate Dufour vigorously oppose our efforts to help keep the elderly in their homes.

Make no mistake, the Maine Municipal Association does not care about elderly taxpayers. They only care about tax revenue, no matter where they get it.

Frankly, it’s heinous when lobbyists and politicians – both paid by taxpayer dollars – argue that it’s bad to burden a town, but it’s okay to throw seniors out of their homes.

And, on the other hand, if it’s happening with any frequency, we must stop it. Maine has more than 400 towns. If this only happens in each town once every 10 years, that averages more than 40 seniors losing their homes and their equity each year.

Our amendment takes no revenue away from towns. But towns should not get one more penny from a senior or any taxpayer than what is owed, and seniors deserve the equity from their own home.

If Democrats and local officials think foreclosing on our elderly is a good way to increase revenue, folks, we’re even worse off than I thought. Contact your legislators and tell them to help our elderly stay in their homes.

Thank you.

Paul LePage

Governor

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