A Republican legislator wants an ethics investigation launched into whether the House chairman of a taxation committee violated rules by being employed by a ballot referendum campaign.

Rep. Heather Sirocki on Wednesday asked Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon to convene the House ethics commission to consider whether Democratic Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono, violated ethics rules for accepting at least $9,000 from Citizens Who Support Maine’s Public Schools.

Last fall, Tipping worked for the group which successfully pushed for a 3 percent surtax on income that exceeds $200,000. The tax helps fund public schools.

“When legislators are paid by a special interest group to support a particular position, their impartiality has been compromised,” Sirocki said in a Feb. 12 letter to Gideon.

Tipping said he sought guidance from the Maine Commission on Governmental Elections and Election Practices before and after taking the job to make sure the activity was appropriate. Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the commission, said it’s unlikely Tipping’s work prevents him from voting on taxation or education legislation.

“The only reason they continue to bring up these baseless attacks is to distract people from the fact that the governor and his allies do not want to fund our local schools,” Tipping said Wednesday.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage last week said Tipping should resign. The Maine Republican Party wants him reassigned to a new committee.

LePage says the surtax will dissuade professionals from coming to Maine, and his two-year budget proposal would essentially undo it by moving toward a flat tax. Tipping, as chairman of the House taxation committee, will help decide whether LePage’s tax reforms happen.

Gideon defended Tipping, saying many lawmakers have jobs at businesses or nonprofits that could be impacted by legislation.

“Rep. Tipping worked for a cause that he passionately believes in, which Democrats believe in, to ensure that our schools are adequately funded,” she said last week.

But Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, said legislators shouldn’t be “taking $9,000 from a PAC to serve one side of a tax issue and then jumping over to chair the taxation committee” and work on the same issue.

Tipping was not the only lawmaker employed by a referendum campaign.

Democratic Sen. Benjamin Chipman, D-Portland, who is not the subject of an ethics investigation, received $1,710 for providing professional services to the income surcharge ballot campaign. He was paid an additional $125 as a campaign consultant from the referendum to legalize recreational marijuana.

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