Put tax reform on the list of things on which state government is incapable of taking meaningful action. A partisan divide in Augusta, a lack of consensus among the public on what to do and easy access to the ballot means that although people don’t like where we are, there is no agreement about what to do about it.

A series of tax and spending limits have been turned down by the voters, ending with the second attempt to pass a Taxpayer Bill of Rights last year. Last week a plan developed over the last eight years by a Democratic-controlled Legislature was massaged, refined and shrunk in scope before it was finally signed by the governor.

But a people’s veto campaign characterized the revenue-neutral update of the tax code as a tax increase, and now we are back where we started with a tax code designed for Maine’s manufacturing and natural resource-based economy of the 1960s.

The next Legislature and governor will be cautious about trying something like this again, just as they would likely take a hands-off posture on the other issues that have been the subject of referendum votes in recent years — like casino gambling and same-sex marriage. The people have spoken on those issues and they will insist on being heard again if lawmakers try to override them.

Some argue that the referendum process makes it too easy to get measures on the ballot, but that’s not the problem. It is an important check on the government, and its current use is a sign that there is no broad agreement on the direction the state should be headed. What’s lacking is leadership.

On taxes and spending, the voters have now rejected solutions from the right and the left, but that’s not because most people think what we have works. Conservatives have argued that the problem is that we tax too much, liberals that the burden is wrongly distributed. What remains is one of the highest income tax rates in the country, one of the narrowest sales tax bases and chronic problems paying for everything from education to roads and bridges.

This gubernatorial campaign will be a good opportunity to try again to forge an agreement of what the problem is and how to attack it. If there are better ideas on how to run things, this would be a good time to hear them.