Election 2009

Posted Oct. 30, 2009, at 6:43 p.m.

No on Question 1

The question of whether to repeal Maine’s gay marriage law boils down to a simple point: Everyone must be treated equally under the state and U.S. Constitution. Denying civil marriage rights to same-sex couples violates that tenet.

The Maine legislation also took important steps, mirroring the state’s Human Rights Law, to respect religious freedom and traditions. No church will be compelled to perform or recognize marriages that run counter to its faith.

This strikes the difficult balance of respecting religious freedom while ensuring equality.

It is only natural that changing the definition of something as fundamental as marriage makes some uncomfortable. But the strong desire of gay and lesbian couples to be married, rather than declared domestic partners, shows the value and importance of marriage and furthers the state’s interest in promoting stable families and communities.

Voting no on Question 1 will reiterate Maine’s commitment to equality and acceptance of families of all types while respecting religious traditions and beliefs.

No on Question 2

Paying less excise tax when you register your car each year likely sounds appealing to most Mainers. However, more than three-quarters of the cars registered in Maine are 5 years old or older. The owners of these cars won’t see any reduction in their excise tax if Question 2 is passed. While encouraging the purchase of hybrid and fuel-efficient vehicles is laudable, this portion of the referendum question comes off as an afterthought.

Because the excise tax revenue is generally used to pay for municipal road and bridge maintenance and repair, cutting the tax would result in worse roads or an increase in property taxes.

A tax break for the small minority of Mainers who buy new or hybrid cars isn’t worth the cost this initiative would impose.

No on Question 3

The state’s consolidation effort has been heavy-handed and met with strong resistance in some areas. That’s not a reason, however, to abandon the needed effort to reduce the number of school districts in the state. A no vote on Question 3 will allow those districts that have consolidated to move forward, while lawmakers can turn their attention to rewriting the troublesome portions of the 2007 reorganization law.

The number of students in Maine schools has declined by more than 30,000 since the 1980s, while the number of school divisions and administrators has increased.

That’s why Maine must finish the consolidation work and continue to look for areas to cut costs and reallocate money to classrooms.

No on Question 4

The reasons for rejecting TABOR II are the same reasons similar measures were defeated by Maine voters in 2004 and 2006. There are times when voters expect spending to increase, and times they expect cuts. But they also recognize that the functions of our state and municipalities are better left to the representatives we elect and shouldn’t be paralyzed by requiring costly and time-consuming referendum votes on spending decisions or a strict formula.

State government spending was decreased, not increased, in the last budget cycle, despite claims of “runaway state spending.” So if TABOR II is approved and the economy recovers, state and local government will limp along behind, unable to provide the needed infrastructure and services. And a constricted government, unable to respond to changing conditions, will not serve the state’s business community, which has not endorsed Question 4.

No on Question 5

In 1999, Mainers voted to allow marijuana to be used for treating certain illnesses. Question 5 is designed to facilitate the intent of the 1999 law, but it leaves too many unanswered questions.

The law proposed by Question 5 would create marijuana dispensaries with little oversight. Under the proposal, the state Department of Health and Human Services would oversee the dispensaries, which is unfair to the already overburdened staff and puts the agency in the position of having to safeguard against illicit use of the drug.

Instead, state lawmakers should craft a plan that allows patients who would benefit from using marijuana to have access to it, while not allowing more illicit use.

Yes on Question 6

Borrowing and spending money — especially on infrastructure — makes more sense during a recession than during boom times. Interest rates are low and the spending can create jobs here in Maine. Most compelling is that the physical improvements made by the bond funding serve as the nuts and bolts of a growing economy.

That is why voters should support Question 6. The $71 million bond devotes $55 million to state highways and bridges, $8 million to port and ferry improvements, $4 million to railroad upgrades, $3.6 million for aviation work and $400,000 for the Acadia Gateway project in Trenton; it also will bring in $148 million in federal funds.

The borrowed money is a needed investment in Maine’s economy.

Yes on Question 7

Democratic passions may drive the people who work to put citizen initiatives on the ballot. But it’s the city and town clerks and their assistants who labor to verify that the signatures on petitions are those of registered voters. Approving Question 7 will make the clerks’ work a little easier.

Question 7, if approved, will add five more days so clerks will have 10 business days to verify the signatures. It also gives petitioners 10 more days to file their petitions with the Secretary of State’s Office.

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