Problems with Question 1

Question 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot is a citizen-initiated referendum. Like so many recent citizen-initiated referenda, it does not stand up to scrutiny.

Promoted by the Maine People’s Alliance, the initiative would impose a new a tax on higher incomes in Maine to fund in-home health care services for the elderly and disabled. It also would create a government board to administer the $310 million the tax would bring in each year.

In Maine, arguments advocating implementation of any new tax are considered fighting words. Nor is this Robin Hood business model as persuasive as it might sound. The “higher income” targeted is anything above $128,400 for individuals and families. It’s a nice income, no question, but it’s not exactly jaw-dropping. Opponents claim, with justice, that the tax would be a disincentive for well-paid professionals to settle in Maine.

Those against Question 1 also say it’s a Trojan horse — an effort to unionize the home health care field. To the extent that home health care workers would become state employees for purposes of collective bargaining, the opponents are right. Of course, those who see union membership as a path to improved compensation and working conditions would consider this a plus.

Fair compensation for home health care workers is a valid cause. But imposition of a new tax on a single sector is too narrow a solution. The ideal approach would be a broad restructuring of Medicare and Medicaid to address the inevitable and growing needs of the elderly and disabled.

Question 1 may not be a great idea. But opponents go too far when they label it a “scam,” as they have done with their countless road signs. A scam is a fraudulent scheme whose presentation is deliberately dishonest. The tactic of the organized opponents is deliberately misleading, which is disappointing.

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