November 2, 2018

Raymond and Windham legislative candidates and their thoughts on the Citizen Initiative, known as Question 1

We have received requests recently to clarify the candidates running for election in the Windham and Raymond areas and to highlight Question 1 – the citizen initiative regarding Universal Home Care Program. To honor those requests, we have asked the candidates to give their perspective on the question.

Briefly, a citizen initiative is a proposed law that any Maine registered voter can initiate. The voter must submit an application and it must be approved by the Secretary of State. Once approved, a petition is created and must be signed by a certain number of valid signatures. (In this case, the required number of valid signatures were 61,123 – 10% of the total votes for governor in the 2014 election.) Before the initiative is placed on the ballot, the Maine legislature has the chance to pass the proposed law. If the legislature does not pass the law, the initiative is placed on the ballot and Maine voters have the opportunity to vote for or against it.

Question 1 is: “Do you want to create the Universal Home Care Program to provide home-based assistance to people with disabilities and senior citizens, regardless of income, funded by a new 3.8% tax on individuals and families with Maine wage and adjusted gross income above the amount subject to Social Security taxes, which is $128,400 in 2018?”

The following are the responses of the candidates (listed in alphabetical and numerical order):

Raymond (parts of Casco and Poland). District 66. Maine House of Representative

Jessica Fay versus Greg Foster

FAY: Question one is the beginning of a long overdue conversation about how older people will age in Maine. Unfortunately, because of the process model in the referendum and concerns over the funding mechanism, I can’t support it. There are Federal programs that Maine might take better advantage of or look to as a model as we develop policy and use the regular legislative process to work through the details.
As an advocate for Age-Friendly Communities, I realize how critically important this topic is and I am looking forward to continuing to work on the issue.

FOSTER: I have already voted no on Question #1. This thirty-six-page citizens’ initiative creates a fourth branch of government with a board that has no oversight from the legislature, the only avenue of accountability to the taxpayer. If passed, it will likely make Maine the highest taxed state in the Nation. What a terrible thing to do to the citizens, when over the last eight years Maine finally has achieved a fiscal responsibility that has improved every measurable performance of the state’s economy. There are other aspects to this referendum that earns its designation as a Scam.

Raymond (parts of Gray, New Gloucester, and all of Frye Island). District 67 Maine House of Representative

Sue Austin versus Anne Gass

AUSTIN: Question One is possibly the most aggressively destructive pieces that we have had to consider in the list of recent referendums. As usual the question is worded to sound so innocent and equitable for all Maine people.

However, it would place one of the highest taxes in the country on a combined household income of $128,000 and above. It would have a tremendous burden on small family owned businesses. Many of whom are the life blood of our small communities.

This piece touts a home health care benefit to all seniors with no means testing and no Maine state residency requirement. This program would be governed by a nine-member board that would work independently outside the realm of the state’s administration, and the Maine State Legislature with open access to this targeted tax revenue to spend with no taxpayer accountability.

If we really feel that we want our young people to be able to stay Home in Maine to start families, invest in our communities and add to our trained, skilled workforce, the vote on this question is very,
very simple - “NO”!

GASS: I'm voting "no" on Question 1. 
I'm sympathetic to the need to raise wages but am concerned this isn't the right way to fund it. Maine is already a high tax state, and this would have an additional impact on businesses coming on the heels of the increase in the minimum wage that voters also passed recently. Finally, I think that people receiving public assistance ought to demonstrate a financial need for it.

Windham. District 24. Maine House of Representatives

Mark Bryant versus Tom Tyler

BRYANT: Do you encourage a “yes” or “no” answer on Question 1?  I do not encourage a "yes or no" answer.

Why? It is a citizens’ initiative and the finer details of the language haven't been vetted. I will respect the decision of the people.

TYLER: This one is easy. A big emphatic NO on One.   This would affect middle income families, small businesses and companies that have staff who earn over the limit. The bill also creates a commission to run the program that once the group is established they have no oversight by anyone. There are no criteria as to who is eligible to receive benefits. Wealthy people could qualify. This bill is such a mess and if you read it carefully it may also have unconstitutional provisions. The Maine Peoples Alliance trying again to push garbage legislation that hurt Maine citizens.

Windham. District 25. Maine House of Representatives

Jennie Butler versus Patrick Corey

BUTLER: Although Maine needs to do a better job at supporting senior citizens in their homes and it is significantly cheaper to help them in their homes instead of placing them in facilities, I am concerned about making tax policies via referendum. I will be voting against Question 1.

COREY: I urge a "no" vote on Question 1. With Maine’s aging population I believe it is worthwhile to have a real conversation surrounding access to home healthcare. That said, the proposal in front of us creates one of the highest tax rates in the country. The self-employed and small businesses will be hit hardest, and both are vital for our economy. Maine has to remain competitive with other states to keep families and professionals here. In the legislature we work incredibly hard in a bipartisan and thoughtful manner to strike a balance that works for everyone.

Senate District 26 (Windham, Raymond as well as Baldwin, Casco, Frye Island, Standish).

Bill Diamond (unopposed)

Who can disagree with the intent of Question One. However, the details reveal significant problems. My biggest concern is the negative impact the referendum will have on small businesses. Most small businesses in Maine are not major corporations and most of the money they get from sales, with the exception of allowed deductions, is counted as "income" and will be used to measure if they meet the new tax threshold - most will.  
The problem is most small businesses in Maine have to hold a lot of their "income" in a separate account to pay for an occasional stall in accounts receivable and must save money to pay their employees even in bad weeks.  

Also, saving income for expansion or securing new accounts also require money on hand, money that will be considered as "income" by Question One. Therefore, from a small business perspective Question One could be devastating to them because they will be taxed at nearly 11% on income they will not be able to use as income.

There are also several other issues with Question One to be concerned about including what the former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Court, Daniel Wathen, has publicly stated - Question One is, in his opinion, UNCONSTITUTIONAL.  Question One is a 14-page bill that will become law - I strongly urge every voter to read the14 pages before you vote.  Once you see the many radical proposals contained in the bill you may be concerned as well.

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