All Maine Matters

August 2006



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All Maine Matters

Because All of Maine DOES Matter!
Vol. 1, No. 8      August 2006 FREE

Taxpayer Bill of Rights
by Gary C. Foster

As expected, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights referendum is being sharply criticized and condemned by those who depend on taxpayers for their existence.

In a rather bizarre interpretation, the MMA and others suggest that Taxpayer Bill of Rights provision requiring a 2/3 vote for a legislative body to increase the financial hardship on Maine’s taxpayers beyond that which is reasonable is a change to minority rule. Currently 51% of our legislature can choose to increase our tax burden. That means 49% of Maine’s taxpayers are not represented in such a decision. Under TABOR, 67% of Maine’s taxpayers would be represented, and the taxpayers themselves would participate in the decision. Coupled with consent of the voters, a supermajority would certainly be a much stronger consensus as to the necessity and legitimacy of increasing spending and taxes above the reasonable and sustainable level allowed under TABOR.

For years, Maine has led the nation in state and local tax burden. Incidentally, I doubt that this is what our state’s founders had in mind when they adopted the motto “Dirigo.” Even under the economic cure-all LD1, our state and local tax burden has risen from 13% to 13.5%, demonstrating that this dog and pony show hasn’t worked.

What it really boils down to is the entitlement crowd’s fear of the voters. The unbridled tax and spend practices of government demonstrate that the taxpayers are perceived as a limitless resource to be exploited. Therefore, allowing the taxpayers to participate in any decision to increase their tax burden is a threat to this practice and to any entity that feeds from the public trough.

Though our legislature is aware of the burden they have strapped on the backs of the taxpayers, for decades they have failed to address unrestrained spending and taxation, instead trying everything imaginable to avoid prudent fiscal management and to conceal Maine’s looming economic train wreck.

Consider an analogy posed by Frederic Bastiat, a 19th century French economist: “You compare the nation, perhaps, to a parched tract of land, and the tax to a fertilizing rain. Be it so. But you ought also to ask yourself where are the sources of this rain and whether it is not the tax itself which draws away the moisture from the ground and dries it up? Again, you ought to ask yourself whether it is possible that the soil can receive as much of this precious water by rain as it loses by evaporation?”
Not surprisingly, decades of increased spending and taxation have not produced prosperity in our state, yet our elected officials and those who gain from the labors of the taxpayer continue to promote it.

The Maine Taxpayer Bill of Rights is the only legitimate proposal to maintain a sustainable rate of growth in government in our State. Contrary to what opponents are saying, this proposal does not establish minority rule, but supermajority rule and voter participation. It does not impose budget cuts; it manages the growth of spending by tying it to inflation and population growth. It does not require a 2/3 vote to approve a budget; in requires 2/3 of the governing body and majority of the voters only to exceed the allowable rate of growth. In addition, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights also returns 80% of surpluses to the taxpayers and the remaining 20% to a budget stabilization fund to be used only in the event of a revenue shortfall.

With our legislature demonstrating no attempt at meaningful tax reform, a group of citizens exercised their right to initiate the Taxpayer Bill of Rights initiative for Maine. It is a well researched, well thought out fiscal management tool, crafted for Maine by Maine citizens.

Remember, government has no rights; it has only those powers granted by the people. This is illustrated in The Declaration of Independence: “…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…” We should not, and must not, succumb to the will of government. In November, we have the opportunity to exercise our rights and powers by supporting the Taxpayer Bill of Rights initiative to keep our government within its bounds and within our control.

In closing, consider the following observation from Thomas Jefferson, and compare it to our current state of affairs here in Maine: “We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds...we [will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers.”

For more information on the Maine Taxpayer Bill of Rights, go to

Gary Foster has been involved in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights effort since initial meeting back in May of 2004, when the initiative was conceived. He is also one of the five “Founding Fathers” as Mary Adams calls them, who signed the application to petition, and who delivered the petitions to the Secretary of State last October. He is currently serving his third year on the Gray Town Council, and second year as Chair. As a side note, the Gray Town Council, in May of this year, approved a Resolution endorsing the Taxpayer Bill of Rights in a 4-1 vote.

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