Vote no on Question 4

Posted Oct. 22, 2009, at 7:02 p.m.

We co-chaired the state Appropriations Committee in the 120th Legislature. We both have spent years working with municipal budgets in our respective communities from different perspectives. We are opposed to Question 4, the TABOR initiative.

Recommending a balanced state budget was extremely difficult. We tried to provide adequate funding for education, economic development, the elderly, residents with developmental disabilities or mental health needs and business incentives. The Maine taxpayer is served in ways that many people don’t even realize.

Do you know that if the TABOR limits had been in place for the past three years, they actually would have allowed more spending than the current tax limit legislation?

Do you know that the Highway Fund will be included under TABOR, using a base year that drastically underfunds Maine’s road repair needs? Have you driven on the Eagle Lake Road in Bar Harbor or Route 219 in Leeds lately? Funding is already limited by the economy, and reduced maintenance is already evident.

Do you know that every one of the over 800 “Other Special Revenue” accounts in the state will have to be reviewed individually to determine whether they exceed the TABOR cap? The former state controller estimates the need to hire at least three more accountants to do just that. Do you know that every one of those accounts that exceeds the limit will have to be voted on individually by referendum in every city and town in Maine? Do you know that the state will tell us exactly how our local ballot question must be written and how our budgets must be presented? (“Each municipality shall use the cost center budget summary format developed by the Department of the Audit …”) That after approval, a municipal budget that exceeds TABOR spending limits, whether passed at town meeting or by a town or city council, still will have to be sent out for a separate referendum vote?

These referendum elections will be expensive, and they may not pass. Voters can only vote them up or down, without changes. The state, our towns and schools can’t operate without approved funding. There may be shutdowns and lack of services.

Do you know that each county and municipality must submit “a copy of its adopted cost center summary budget to Maine Revenue Services within 30 days after final approval of the county or municipal budget?” So they can check our homework, you might say.

If these are things you did not know about TABOR, you should sit down and read through the bill. You might be surprised at what you find.

Vote no on 4 — no on TABOR.

Jill Goldthwait of Bar Harbor served in the Maine Senate from 1994 to 2002. Randy Berry of Livermore served in the Maine House of Representatives from 1994 to 2002.

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