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How Paul LePage, Running to Lead Maine, Benefited From Florida Tax Breaks

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As governor of Maine for 2 terms until 2019, Paul LePage, a Republican, gained a fame as one among the pre-Trump era’s most unfiltered politicians.

He said he desired to tell President Barack Obama to “go to hell,” and told the N.A.A.C.P. to “kiss my butt.” He made racist comments about drug dealers who supposedly travel to Maine and “impregnate a young white girl before they leave.”

Making a comeback attempt now against his successor, Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, Mr. LePage is focusing heavily in his campaign on a push to phase out Maine’s income tax. He argues that the change is required to maintain wealthy residents from moving to Florida for just long enough annually to make the most of the Sunshine State’s tax breaks.

But Mr. LePage and his wife, Ann LePage, who’ve owned property in Florida for over a decade, have themselves benefited from that state’s tax laws while living within the Maine governor’s mansion, and again as he campaigns to return to the job. From 2009 to 2015, and likewise from 2018 through the top of this 12 months, the couple received property tax breaks reserved for everlasting Florida residents, public records show.

The properties in query, each in Ormond Beach, Fla., are a house that the LePages bought in 2008 and sold in 2017, and one other that they purchased in 2018 and still own. For each homes, the couple have sought and received what is named a homestead exemption, which is supposed to use only to primary residences in Florida.

The sum the couple saved through the years is comparatively small: Somewhat over $8,500, in line with a Recent York Times evaluation of public records.

But this isn’t the primary time the LePages have faced scrutiny over such a tax matter — in 2010, Florida officials fined Mrs. LePage $1,400 before rescinding the penalty — and Mr. LePage’s give attention to taxes in the present campaign for governor could open him as much as attacks from Democrats.

Mr. LePage’s campaign defended the tax moves, saying that Mrs. LePage’s mother had used the Florida home as her primary residence from 2009 until her death in 2015, when the couple removed the primary homestead exemption. Mrs. LePage’s mother had scleroderma, a chronic disease that causes hardening of the skin.

“Mrs. LePage’s mother would visit Augusta, but on account of her condition, she spent a considerable amount of time, especially in cooler fall, winter and spring periods, at that everlasting residence” in Florida, said Brent Littlefield, a spokesman for Mr. LePage’s campaign. “Mrs. LePage also traveled there in winter months to look after her. Her mother kept that as her primary residence while she was alive.”

The campaign didn’t comment on the second exemption held from 2018 through this 12 months. Attempts to succeed in Mrs. LePage directly were unsuccessful.

At campaign events, Mr. LePage has spoken concerning the couple’s home in Florida, and has criticized a Maine law requiring residents who split their time between the 2 states — so-called snowbirds — to spend not less than 183 days, or simply over half a 12 months, in Florida to be able to pay the state’s lighter tax burden.

“We go all the way down to Naples, Fla., to boost money from Mainers because that’s where all the cash is — and it’s unlucky that they’ve to depart for six months and a day,” Mr. LePage said in Bangor last month. “I haven’t any problem going to Florida. We go to Florida, we’ve a house in Florida, nevertheless it’s for January and February, not for six months and a day. It’s unlucky that we’ve this crazy tax and that is what happens.”

But while Mr. LePage said that he and his wife were in Florida for less than a few months a 12 months, they’ve painted a special picture for Florida’s tax collectors through the years.

In his final months as governor, Mr. LePage told reporters in November 2018 that he had a house in Florida and planned to maneuver there since the state had no income tax. But by that point, records show, he and his wife had already claimed a homestead exemption on their Ormond Beach property — indicating that Florida had been the first residence of Maine’s governor and first lady since March 2018, after they bought the house.

That assertion meant that the four-bedroom home, about quarter-hour from the Atlantic Ocean, was eligible for a Florida homestead exemption, which shaves $50,000 from the taxable value of qualified primary residences within the state.

After leaving office in 2019 due to Maine’s prohibition on serving a 3rd consecutive term, Mr. LePage obtained a Florida driver’s license and registered to vote within the state. Then, in February 2020, he said he was considering a bid for a 3rd term, and when he announced his run last 12 months he cited criticisms of Ms. Mills’s response to the pandemic. He switched his voter registration back to Maine in 2020 and publicized pictures of himself putting Maine license plates back on his automobile.

The couple have rented a house in Edgecomb, Maine, since 2020, and Mr. LePage has been campaigning within the state for much of the past 12 months. Nevertheless it was not until this June that Ann LePage informed a property appraiser in Florida that she and her husband were now not residents of that state, in line with the county appraiser’s office. The tax break will stay in effect through the top of this 12 months, in line with an official within the appraiser’s office in Flagler County, Fla., which handled the matter.

Jon Alper, a Florida lawyer who makes a speciality of asset protection, said the circumstances of the LePages’ homestead exemption claims were “actually atypical.”

“It’s possible under the law, but normally if one spouse is in the home, they’re each in the home,” he said.

The LePages have struggled with tax issues while toggling between the 2 states for greater than a decade.

In 2008, while Mr. LePage was mayor of Waterville, Maine, his wife bought a house in Ormond Beach, not removed from the house they’d buy a decade later in the identical city. She claimed the Florida homestead exemption regardless that she was also claiming a homestead exemption on a house she owned in Waterville. Each states require homeowners to certify that a property is their important residence to be able to qualify for the exemption.

That misstep was reported in 2010, during Mr. LePage’s first campaign for governor. Florida tax officials originally fined Mrs. LePage $1,400 for misleading them about her residency status within the state, but they withdrew the penalty shortly after, citing an evidence from Mrs. LePage that her mother, Rita DeRosby, was living in the home. A seldom-used provision within the Florida tax code allows homeowners to assert a homestead exemption if a dependent is residing on the property.

Months after Mrs. LePage was cleared of wrongdoing, Ms. DeRosby joined the family’s move into the Maine governor’s mansion, in line with local reports. When Ms. DeRosby died in 2015, her obituary said that she had “spent the last eight years of her life residing” together with her daughter and Mr. LePage.

Mr. LePage’s campaign proposal to eliminate Maine’s state income tax has prompted criticism from some Democratic officials that local governments can be forced to boost property taxes to offset costs.

While he was governor, Mr. LePage tried to eliminate Maine’s homestead exemption, a proposal that will have denied an estimated 213,000 Mainers advantages much like those he enjoyed in Florida, in line with an evaluation by the left-leaning Maine Center for Economic Policy.

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