March 4, 2010

TABOR defeat reveals trust in government


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20091103_ ElectionTaborV
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20091103_ ElectionTaborV

Gordon Chibroski

Staff Writer

People rarely have nice things to say about politicians. But Tuesday's lopsided defeat of Question 4 revealed that the vast majority of Maine voters trust their elected officials, political observers said Wednesday.

Voters rejected the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights 60 percent to 40 percent. It was the third time in five years that Maine voters rejected a proposed tax-and-spending cap.

Despite widespread frustration with Maine's tax burden, voters appear skeptical of formula-based tax and spending caps like those in some large states such as Colorado and California, said Ron Schmidt, an associate professor of political science at the University of Southern Maine.

In Maine, where most communities have a town meeting form of government and constituents have easy access to their representatives in the Legislature, people are less alienated from government than they are in larger states, he said.

''As frustrated as people get with their government, there is more of a sense here that it's possible for citizens to play a part in public affairs than in places where measures like TABOR have been successful,'' he said.

Question 4 would have imposed spending limits on the state and local governments by using a formula based on population and inflation.

At the local level, the cap would have been based on average personal income growth and forecast inflation. At the state and local levels, voters' approval would have been required to exceed spending limits or raise taxes.

Kevin Raye, the Republican leader in the state Senate, said Mainers are less trustful of state government than they are of local government. He said people would have been more receptive of TABOR if it had applied only to state government.

Raye, who lives in Perry in Washington County, said many of the county's residents are engaged in town affairs and don't want to lose that. In the last days of the campaign, he said, support for the ballot measure began to slip as people expressed concerns that it would reduce local control.

The defeat of TABOR was a vote of confidence in the republican form of government as opposed to the direct-democracy of the ballot box, said Patrick Murphy, a political pollster.

Mainers trust their elected representatives to handle budget matters and don't want ''non-stop local referendums,'' he said.

People like to complain about elected officials, he said, ''but they like all the levels of government we have, and they don't want to do anything to hurt their level of local representation.''

Legislators shouldn't see TABOR's defeat as a sign that voters are willing to have their taxes raised to prevent more state budget cuts, said Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, co-chair of the Appropriations Committee.

Rather, in defeating TABOR, voters were acknowledging that lawmakers have done a good job balancing the budget without tax increases, he said, and they will expect that to continue.

''They realize we are making cuts. They recognize what we are up against,'' he said. ''There is a level of trust that we are doing our best.''

Gov. John Baldacci agreed that TABOR's defeat doesn't signal the public's willingness to pay more taxes. Rather, voters expect officials to make hard decisions without the constraints of a formula-driven spending cap, he said.

''What they are saying is, it's important that we have good quality services, education, public safety, fire and police,'' he said. ''It's also important to make sure that you're not doing it by formula but you're doing it with thought and careful consideration.''

TABOR's wide margin of defeat means the out-of-state anti-tax groups that bankrolled the signature drive that put the question on the ballot will now view Maine as a bad investment for similar initiatives, Schmidt said.

In 2004, Maine voters rejected a proposal that would have capped property taxes. In 2006, they rejected a spending cap that was almost identical to the one on Tuesday's ballot.

Many people are irritated that the issue keeps appearing on the ballot, and opponents will have an even easier time tapping into that frustration if TABOR ever returns, said  Sandy Maisel, a professor of government at Colby College.

''People got sick of it,'' he said.

Susan Cover of the Kennebec Journal contributed to this report.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:


AP Sports Writer

LONDON (AP) — Liverpool's chances of progressing in the Champions League took a big hit Wednesday when the five-time European champions conceded late to draw 1-1 at Lyon, which advanced to the next round.

Liverpool looked to have secured victory when substitute Ryan Babel scored with 7 minutes left but Lisandro took advantage of a defensive error to tie the score in the last minute and put the French team through.

With Arsenal moving to the verge of qualification with a 4-1 win over AZ Alkmaar, Liverpool is in severe danger of becoming the first English club to fall at the group stage since Manchester United in 2005.

Even wins in its final two games may not be enough.

Also Wednesday, Sevilla advanced to the knockout stage after its 1-1 draw at Stuttgart and Inter Milan scored twice in the last 4 minutes to revitalize its chances with a 2-1 win at Dynamo Kiev.

But Liverpool let its winning position slip when defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos tumbled to the ground while contesting a long ball into the area, allowing Lisandro to steady himself and shoot past goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

''We deserved to win,'' manager Rafa Benitez said. ''To concede a goal in the last minute is really unlucky. I will see the replay and analyze carefully.''

Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had starred for Lyon, which won 2-1 at Anfield two weeks ago. Lloris saved from Lucas Leiva in the 69th and then helped block Dirk Kuyt's overhead kick on the rebound.

But Liverpool remained shaky in defense and remained under pressure even after Babel had smashed a shot past Lloris from well outside the area.

Liverpool has just four points from four games, six fewer than Lyon and five fewer than Fiorentina, which routed Debrecen 5-2 through goals by Adrian Mutu, Dario Dainelli, Riccardo Montolivo, Marco Marchionni and Alberto Gilardino.

''It's hit us hard,'' Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said. ''A draw doesn't mean we were totally out of it but a win would have been great.''

Arsenal needs just one more point to be sure of following Manchester United and Chelsea, which advanced to the next round on Tuesday alongside FC Porto and Bordeaux.

Cesc Fabregas put the Gunners ahead at Emirates Stadium in the 25th with a soft 20-yard shot that goalkeeper Sergio Romero let in at the near post and Samir Nasri made it 2-0 just before halftime, stepping inside a defender and placing a shot in at the post from the edge of the area.

The Dutch side conceded again in the 52nd, giving the ball away in its own half and letting Andrei Arshavin set up Fabregas for a shot into the top corner.

Abou Diaby made it 4-0 in the 72nd from Arshavin's backheeled pass.

''Let's keep this attitude and spirit and we can deliver something special,'' Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. ''They have a fantastic attitude and great quality and great spirit.''

Standard Liege kept alive its faint hopes of securing runner-up spot to Arsenal in Group H with a 2-0 win over second-place Olympiakos.

Arsenal has 10 points, four more than Olympiakos and six more than Standard. Even AZ still has a chance of progressing despite being stranded in last place on two points.

Sevilla advanced despite surrendering a late goal to draw 1-1 against Stuttgart.

Sevilla had mostly backed off after Jesus Navas opened the scoring in the 14th minute at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium and Zdravko Kuzmanovic equalized with a powerful shot into the top of goal.

Sevilla dropped its first points in Group G but stayed top with 10 points, while Stuttgart has three. Unirea Urziceni drew 1-1 with Rangers to move to five points, three more than the Scottish club.

Inter Milan vaulted from last to first place in Group F, ahead of Barcelona.

Diego Milito equalized in the 86th after Andriy Shevchenko had given Dynamo Kiev the lead midway through the first half and Wesley Sneijder pounced on a goalkeeping error to hit the winning goal in the 89th.

Inter has six points in the competition's tightest group, one more than Rubin and Barca, and two more than Dynamo Kiev.

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