Having served as chair of my town’s board of selectmen, I can tell you the state is known for not fulfilling its financial commitments to municipalities when times get lean. That’s why I’m very concerned about the impact of the Pine Tree Power ballot initiative (Question 3) should it pass in November, because it proposes acquiring the two largest property taxpayers in the state to create a new state-owned electric utility.

Right now, many towns and cities rely on the tens of millions of tax dollars paid by our existing utilities. On its surface, this ballot initiative calls for Pine Tree Power to continue paying those taxes, rolling them directly into our electric rates along with several new expenses, like the debt to buy out the companies and the annual fees for hiring a third-party contractor to operate the grid.

But when unhappy ratepayers start complaining about their high electric bills, how do you think Pine Tree Power’s elected board members will respond? There could be layoffs, but that doesn’t look good for politicians hoping to be reelected. I believe they’ll cut, or even eliminate, property tax payments.

Some may argue this can’t be done because property taxes are specifically addressed in the ballot initiative. But in Augusta, there’s always a way to rewrite laws and regulations, especially where financial commitments are concerned. This is just one of the many potential unintended consequences of Pine Tree Power. If you share my concerns, please vote “No” on Question 3.

Lincoln Merrill
North Yarmouth

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