The Maine People’s Alliance launched a petition drive Wednesday to put a question on the November 2018 ballot seeking a tax increase on high-income earners that would fund an in-home care program for the disabled and elderly.

While Medicare and Medicaid already have similar programs, many who need the care don’t qualify. If approved, the new funding would fill in the gaps for those populations.

The program would be funded with a 1.9 percent tax on income above $127,000 for employees and employers and a 3.8 percent tax on non-wage income, such as dividends from stocks and bonds. The $127,000 threshold was chosen because Social Security payroll taxes aren’t levied on income exceeding $127,000. If approved, the taxes are expected to generate $132 million annually.

The alliance announced the campaign at the South Portland home of John and Artis Bernard, a couple in their 80s.

John Bernard said his wife has dementia and uses a wheelchair, and they need assistance with her care. He said the couple qualified for federal help, which pays for an in-home care worker to help Artis in the afternoons. The Bernards pay $75 per day out-of-pocket for morning in-home care for her.

“We are very lucky to be able to afford this,” Bernard said. “I would like for everyone to be able to get the same good care that we get.”


The program, which the alliance said would help more than 30,000 Mainers, would not only cover seniors, but also younger people with disabilities who need services that Medicaid doesn’t provide.

“Every day, families across Maine are stuck facing the incredible stress of choosing between spending down their life’s savings on care for aging family members, quitting their job to provide that care themselves, or simply letting family members suffer without the care they need,” said Ben Chin, the alliance’s political engagement director.

The Maine People’s Alliance, a liberal advocacy group, must collect 61,123 signatures to get the measure on the November 2018 ballot. The group also organized a successful 2016 ballot initiative that levied a 3 percent tax on household income over $200,000 to provide public school aid. The Maine Legislature this year repealed the tax, but funneled more money into school funding.

Ballot initiatives have become increasingly popular in Maine. Medicaid expansion – which the Maine People’s Alliance also supports – is on the November ballot. Voters also approved marijuana legalization and ranked choice voting in November 2016.

Chin said that similar bills to fund in-home care were pending in the Legislature this year but failed. He said the Legislature’s inaction spurred the referendum campaign.

“Time’s ticking,” Chin said. “We can’t just wait around while the Legislature sits on their hands.”


But David Clough, Maine state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, pointed out that for the self-employed, the tax would be 3.8 percent because they would be acting as employee and employer.

“Many small business owners will be extremely concerned about the additional tax burden and negative impacts of this new proposal,” Clough said. “I suspect NFIB members will strongly oppose this new proposal if it gets on the 2018 ballot.”

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

Twitter: @joelawlorph

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