On one side of the issue, there’s a group called “No Higher Taxes for Maine.” On the other side, there are two organizations: “Still Fed Up With Taxes” and “Vote Yes to Reject New Taxes.”

The tax question on the June ballot appears to pit fiscal conservatives against fiscal conservatives. For once, the beleaguered taxpayers of Maine can’t lose.

Just kidding. Of course they’ll lose.

Despite these political action committees’ tight-fisted titles, none of them has the slightest intention of reducing your taxes. In fact, all the participants actually claim they’re in favor of maintaining the status quo, although one side is promising a status quo that will screw over a slightly different bunch of people, while the other side is in favor of continuing to screw over the same folks.

Which choice you make between these unattractive alternatives could come down to credibility. But since both camps are about as believable as Bigfoot sightings, a solid argument can be made for skipping this question altogether and moving on to the lies being told about the bond issues and gubernatorial candidates.

Nevertheless, I’ll attempt to explain tax reform, using easy-to-understand phrases, such as “fundamentally misleading,” “deliberately inaccurate” and “twisted in ways that are unappealing, uncomfortable and, quite possibly, unnatural.”

Last year, Democrats in the Legislature passed a bill that reduced the state income tax from a maximum rate of 8.5 percent (which nearly everyone pays on most of their income, because Maine’s tax brackets are about as progressive as a Tea Party convention) to a flat rate of 6.5 percent for all but the richest taxpayers. To cover the resulting loss in revenue, the measure called for broadening the sales tax to cover some products and services that had previously been exempt and raising the meals-and-lodging tax from 7 to 8.5 percent.

Republicans opposed the bill, because … well, mostly because it was supported by Democrats.

For decades, the GOP, both locally and nationally, had advocated replacing taxes on income with taxes on consumption, on the grounds that such a system gave people more control over how much they paid the government.

For just as long, Democrats opposed the idea, claiming it would harm the poor and benefit only the wealthy. Sometime in the last decade, the parties got bored making the same old arguments and agreed to swap positions.

Before the bill became law, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci tinkered with it to make it fairer, by which he meant fairer for ski areas and people who sell mansions, both of which were exempted from the expanded sales tax for the very good reason that they were represented by high-priced lobbyists who were close allies of the governor.

Once Baldacci signed this much-improved version of the legislation into law, Republicans set about gathering signatures to force a People’s Veto referendum. They succeeded in collecting more than enough names through a method known as “lying through their Sarah Palin-esque teeth.”

Petition circulators told voters the Democrats’ bill would tax haircuts and create death panels. In reality, it would create haircuts and tax death panels.

The GOP also resorted to the sordid tactic employed nationally against health-care reform: Pretend it’s more complicated than it really is.

In a newspaper op-ed, Republican state Rep. Jonathan McKane claimed the legislation had been “jammed through the Legislature at lightning speed last June, with no hearing, no work session and no real debate.”

In fact, over the nearly two years it took to pass the measure, it had had all those things in excess.

Democrats, concerned that the GOP was achieving hogwash superiority, promptly rolled out their own cock-and-bull stories. Wick Johnson, the head of No Higher Taxes, did a radio interview recently in which he claimed the plan would result in “great tax relief.” He also said, “Everybody does enjoy lower taxes because of this.”

In reality, the promised relief most families would receive will be almost imperceptible, about three bucks a week. And 13 percent of Mainers won’t even get that. They’ll end up paying more.

When it came to the Republican claim that once this change was in place, Democrats would raise taxes, Johnson apparently wasn’t clever enough to fib. “There are many places where we should be more aggressive [in taxing],” he said.

That slip-up aside, neither party is being truthful.

When all this is over — no matter who wins — you’ll end up paying about the same amount in state taxes as you do now. The only issue is how you prefer to have those funds extracted from your bank account.

If you’d rather pay through the income tax, you’ll vote “yes” for the Republicans’ People’s Veto.

If the sales tax is easier, you’ll vote “no” to preserve the Democrats’ reform plan.

If you opt for “none of the above,” you’ll catch the next bus for New Hampshire.

Before they start taxing e-mails, send your comments to me at aldiamon@herniahill.net.