May 20, 2018
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Easton selectmen speak out against 2 ballot measures

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

EASTON, Maine — Members of the Board of Selectmen acknowledged recently that they do not normally take a position on ballot questions.

But they agreed that passage of two questions on the Nov. 3 ballot could harm the town, so they have spoken out in opposition to Questions 2 and 4 on the ballot and in support of Question 3.

Seven ballot questions will be decided by voters on Nov. 3.

Selectmen feel that Question 2, which sets out to reduce excise taxes, would raise the mill rate.

The question before voters reads: “Do you want to cut the rate of municipal excise tax by an average of 55 percent on motor vehicles less than six years old and exempt hybrid and other alternative-energy and highly fuel-efficient motor vehicles from sales tax and three years of excise tax?”

If Question 2 passes, people who own vehicles older than 5 years would see no reduction in their excise taxes. Opponents of the measure have pointed out that nearly 70 percent of vehicles on the road in Maine are older than 5 years.

Many towns and cities across the state are worried about what would happen to their budgets if they lost excise tax revenue.

According to figures provided by the town of Easton, if the measure were passed, the town’s tax rate would increase by half a mill.

Selectmen also oppose passage of Question 4 on the Nov. 3 ballot, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR II.

TABOR II is a proposal that seeks to put limits on tax increases and state and local government spending. The proposal would require voter approval of any increases in government spending beyond the rates of inflation and population growth.

The proposal is similar to a ballot initiative that failed at the polls in 2006.

Supporters insist that TABOR II would rein in government spending and save taxpayers money in the long term. Opponents counter that the restrictions would force drastic cuts to education, public safety, health care and other social services.

Selectmen believe passage of TABOR II would hamstring the town by decreasing efficiency and ensnarling the town in more bureaucracy, beyond the annual town meeting.

Selectmen also believe it would nudge aside the success the town has seen by using a town meeting form of government, saying that “passing this question would in effect create government by referendum.”

The board did support a yes vote on Question 3 to repeal the school administration consolidation law.

Selectmen said the Easton School Committee, selectmen and a special review committee, which included town residents, studied the question.

Easton voters have not approved a consolidation plan.

Indicating that Easton would spend more of the taxpayers’ money to consolidate, as required by the state in 2007, and that Easton would lose independence and the ability to make local decisions for its students, the selectmen recommended voting to repeal the school consolidation law.

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