Group goes to court for referendum

Posted Nov. 02, 2009, at 9:50 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine anti-tax group has gone to court against the state because election officials have failed to meet a deadline to rule on a referendum proposal.

Still Fed Up With Taxes said Monday it directed its lawyer to file a petition in Kennebec County Superior Court forcing Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to complete certification of the people’s veto petitions.

The deadline to complete the review was Oct. 13. State election officials, however, missed the deadline to certify the petition signatures because of the workload involved with staging today’s election featuring seven ballot questions, Dunlap said.

Still Fed Up With Taxes wants to repeal a major tax overhaul enacted by the Legislature earlier this year that reduces the income tax rate for Mainers earning less than $250,000 while applying the sales tax to more goods and services. The tax restructuring package also raises Maine’s meals and lodging tax from 7 percent to 8.5 percent in order to shift more of the tax burden onto tourists and out-of-state visitors.

The group turned in petitions supporting a referendum to repeal the tax law in September. If the petition signatures are certified, a people’s veto question will appear on next June’s ballot.

In a statement, Sen. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, accused Dunlap of ignoring his statutory duty to complete the review.

“Our volunteers worked day and night through one of the coldest and rainiest summers on record to get enough signatures and have them turned in by the required date,” said Trahan, one of the leaders of Still Fed Up With Taxes.

Dunlap said his staff is “within sight” of completing the certification process but that today’s election was their first priority. Dunlap pointed out that the court paperwork was filed on one of his office’s two busiest days of the year, with the other being Election Day.

“We are going to be done within a week. I am comfortable saying that,” Dunlap said.

Bangor Daily News writer Kevin Miller contributed to this report.

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