Yes on Question 1

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights is far from perfect. Those opposed to it have raised some legitimate concerns about the effects that it could have on this state.

However, any similar referendum is likely to have some flaws, and we fear, if this fails, significant tax reform will remain an elusive goal in this state for some time. Legislators have been talking about the same changes to Maine’s taxes for years – lowering property taxes, adjusting the income tax brackets to make them fair and broadening the sales tax. The governor and the Legislature, however, have done little to change the state’s tax structure or burden and, in the meantime, Maine residents remain some of the highest taxed residents in the nation.

The state has passed legislation only in the face of voter initiatives like the Palesky tax cap and the Maine Municipal Association’s increase in state funding for education. Without the latter initiative, the state wouldn’t have made the strides it has toward lowering the property tax.

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights won’t decimate schools and services in the state. It would put a cap on the growth of budgets, at the state and local level. It might force state leaders to make some difficult decisions that are easy to avoid when voters aren’t demanding them.

It’s not perfect. It is extreme in what it requires to exceed spending limits – a ballot vote and a two-thirds majority. The two-thirds majority is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the bill to accept. However, the hurdle is intentionally high, and the governor and Legislature can amend it. If the history of the Maine Municipal Association’s initiative is any indication, they undoubtedly will.

Vote for Baldacci

Our endorsement in the governor’s race goes to incumbent Gov. John Baldacci. We don’t love the governor. He has fallen short in many areas, including tax reform and his plan to deal with the state’s health care problems, Dirigo Health, which has done little to insure uninsured Mainers or lower costs for those who already have health insurance.

The governor, however, has been working on the state’s problems, and his solutions are often thoughtful. They are often, however, too full of compromises that render them ineffective. By pleasing everyone – hospitals, insurers, legislators from both parties – at the outset of Dirigo Health, for example, the state now has a program that is pleasing no one.

However, Baldacci has shown some leadership. He worked with the Legislature to pass a law protecting the rights of homosexuals, which was long overdue in this state. Voters upheld that law last fall, after previous votes had rejected similar laws. The governor has also had difficult budgets. In his first two years, he managed to fill a $1.2 billion shortage in the budget without raising income or sales taxes.

We hope that voters will return Baldacci to the Blaine House, and that the governor will use his ability to build consensus when it’s needed to help the state tackle some of its toughest problems.

-Current Publishing Editorial Board


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