Brought by a citizen initiative, this proposed legislation, known as TABOR II, would set new limits on government spending and require majority approval by referendum at state, county or local levels to exceed those limits. It also requires statewide voter approval for any state tax increase.
The proposed measure has been hotly contested, with proponents and opponents lining up the same as those for Question 2.
According to a guide to Question 4 produced by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the new Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) initiative is “based on a simple premise.”
“It allows for the gradual growth of government spending, but it says to policymakers that if they wish to grow government beyond a certain rate of increase, they have to ask voters for permission.
“The need for TABOR is clearly illustrated by the fact that since the previous referendum vote on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights in 2006, the Legislature has enacted, to date, nearly $300 million in new taxes and fees.”
The policy center further argues that the proposed legislation in Question 4 is needed more than ever because “over the past decade, Maine’s private sector has lost 13,000 workers. In stark contrast, Maine’s state and local governments have added 3,400 workers over the last decade in that same timeframe.”
The policy center and other proponents maintain that the decline in public sector job growth has been driven by out-of-control government spending.
“Clearly, the key to building any kind of sustainable prosperity in this state is better control over the growth of government. TABOR will do that,” the policy center asserts.
Municipalities throughout the state have opposed the measure.
Ellsworth City Councilor Gary Fortier said the problem with TABOR II is that it paints municipalities and the state with the same brush. Ellsworth and local communities do not have a spending problem — the state has a spending problem, he said during discussion on the issue at a City Council meeting last month.
Fortier and other local municipal officials have said that if the measure is approved, it would take financial management out of the hands of local officials and replace it with a spending formula.
The Maine Heritage Policy Center has said local governments would remain under the spending limitations contained in LD1, with the one change that spending would be capped at average real personal income growth plus forecasted inflation, as opposed to the current formula, which involves income growth plus a property growth factor.
“The only other change is that municipalities may only exceed the property tax levy limit by direct referendum vote, as opposed to a written ballot at municipal meetings or town meetings,” according to the policy center’s guide.
Opponents of the measure have disagreed.
At a forum in Ellsworth, Jeffrey Austin, legislative advocate for Maine Municipal Association, said the proposal is intended to make it as difficult as possible to raise money or spend money. At the same forum, Rick McCarthy, vice president of governmental affairs for Maine Tomorrow, said TABOR II affects municipal spending much more than state spending.
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