Talking with people across Waldo County, one of the issues that comes up most often is property taxes. High property taxes are a burden both for people and for our economy as a whole. It’s an issue that affects all of us, but especially working people and seniors.

When property taxes are high, it’s harder for many people to make ends meet. And it limits our ability to shop at local businesses and support local jobs. For these reasons, lowering property taxes has been at the top of my agenda for a long time.

In 2017, when I was House majority leader, we increased the Homestead Exemption. In 2018, we increased the Property Tax Fairness Credit. This year, we built on that success.

During our recent legislative session we crafted and passed a strong, bipartisan budget that provides $130 million in property tax relief for hardworking Mainers, seniors, families and small businesses.

Our new budget provides property tax relief to 13,000 additional people through the Property Tax Fairness Credit, a property tax and rent relief program for Maine residents. For those who are eligible, the state returns a portion of property tax or rent when you file your income tax return.

Before, your property taxes had to constitute 6 percent of income in order for you to qualify. We lowered that to 5 percent. Maine seniors can save up to $1,200 in property taxes and eligible working Mainers and families can save up to $750 on property taxes or rent.

Second, we increased the Homestead Exemption, which provides property tax relief to all Maine residential homeowners. The budget increases the Homestead Exemption to $25,000 — $5,000 more than last year. This means homeowners in Waldo County can take $25,000 off the value of their home and pay property taxes on the remaining amount.

Third, we made a lot of progress to restore revenue sharing. Before 2015, the state returned some of the revenue generated through sales and income tax back to towns across Maine. That money helped lower property tax rates by partially funding local schools, police officers and other essential services. But in 2015 the program was eliminated, leaving towns scrambling to make up the difference. Many towns had to raise property taxes.

This year, we began to restore revenue sharing, increasing it to 2.5 percent this year, 3 percent next year, and almost 4 percent the year after that. As towns receive this funding, they will be able to lower property taxes.

Finally, we added $111 million in education funding, which will reduce the amount of school funding that towns need to raise through property taxes.

Reducing property taxes is the No. 1 concern for many people, and I’m glad we were able to make sure more of your money stays in your wallet. For information about how to apply for property tax relief, please contact me at 287-1515 or erin.herbig@legislature.maine.gov.

Sen. Herbig is serving her first term in the Maine Senate, representing Waldo County. She lives in Belfast.