LePage eyes big 'nonprofits' for property-tax revenue


"Misty Morning, Coast of Maine,'' by ARTHUR PARTON.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage can sometimes sound like a lunatic. The most amusing example of this might be his ouster of a mural depicting the Pine Tree State's labor history from the state Department of Labor's building in Augusta.  He doesn't like unions!

It bears noting, by the way, that both times he's been elected governor he received a minority of votes but won anyway because his Democratic and independent foes split the relatively liberal vote, thus electing Mr. LePage, a Tea Party Republican, governor of a state that generally leans slightly left.

It's an interesting state socio-economically: some strips of wealth (especially in the summer) along the immediate coast from the New Hampshire line to Mt. Desert  Island and pockets of affluence in a couple of towns on the eastern edge of the White Mountains but generally a lot of poverty inland and in northern Maine. Sort of an Arctic Appalachia  set off from the cold-water Riviera of such plush towns as Camden and York and Bar Harbor.

However, the sometimes fiery Mr. LePage is   on to something right in proposing to end the property-tax exemption of some big nonprofits.

The fact is that many big "nonprofits'' are hugely profitable for  their senior executives, who pay themselves more than  they'd earn in many equivalent positions  of responsibility in the for-profit sector.

Rather than paying out profit to shareholders in dividends and capital gains, the organizations enrich the "nonprofit'' execs with  fat, always inflation-proof pay and Cadillac "fringe'' benefits virtually unseen in the officially "for-profit'' sector.

Some of these big ''nonprofits'' can also be goldmines for members of their boards who use them to make and maintain business deals and even directly steer money to their enterprises.

Some big "nonprofits'' endlessly expand their administrative staffs into vast populations of vice presidents, etc., as part of the CEO's empire building. (A few years ago I was approached to work  as an executive for a large, rich "nonprofit''. I was astonished at the overstaffing of administrators, the endless time burned up  in meetings, the geological time taken to make even a minor decision. I'm more used to the much harsher and more decisive world of  regular business, which, if anything, has become even more "heartless'' in the past 30 years.)

Most nonprofits, of course, are just scraping along. I have served on the boards of a few of these and  hugely admire the work they do to keep their civic missions going, though they're probably are too many nonprofits. Lots of cannibalization of charitable money going on.

Rather, I'm talking  here about some some big ones, especially in education and healthcare.

In any event, far too many citizens forget that when an outfit has ''nonprofit'' status or a sexy company gets a sweetheart tax break because a public official wants to take credit for the company's (usual broken) promise of new jobs,  and get into a photo op, that others must make up the lost tax revenue to pay for the  better schools, roads, bridges, health inspectors and so on that we all need.

All hail Governor LePage for raising this issue.