All Maine Matters

March 2006



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Designed by Laisha

Attacking TABOR
By John Frary

On Tuesday, February 26, the Secretary of State certified that the Tax Payer Bill of Rights (TABOR) petitions have enough signatures to place the measure before the voters in a referendum. If passed TABOR would tie the amount of state taxes and fees to the nation?s official rate of inflation and Maine?s population growth. Any increase over this limit would require the consent of a majority of the voters. Twenty percent of any state revenue in excess of the limit would set aside in a reserve fund to cover short-falls due to periods of economic downturns and the remaining 80% returned to taxpayers.. Similar limit would apply to local taxes.

The key to TABOR is this:: Maine?s taxpayers must consent to increases beyond the stated limits.

The immediate reaction of our masters in Augusta tells us that we can expect no response to this key point in the months to come. All manner of fearful consequences will be predicted but we will hear no opponent arguing that taxpayers should be denied a direct say about the burdens imposed upon them.

Planning Director Martha Freeman, speaking on behalf of Governor Baldacci, provided the initial response. She assures us that "Taxpayer concerns already have been addressed very well in LD1." If that?s true, then TABOR is done for?happy and satisfied taxpayers will troop to the polls and vote it down. Speaking for myself, I rather doubt that Director Freeman is all that confident of the Maine taxpayers? contentment with LD1. If she is, a day trip to Auburn is certain to shake her confidence a bit.

Apart from doubts one may have about the voters? enthusiasm for LD1, it is flagrantly illogical for the Democrats to boast of reforming a mess they created in the first place. I would be surprised if Maine?s taxpayers, studying their own tax bills, will be much impressed by assurances that "four studies have shown that LD 1 is succeeding."

House Speaker John Richardson enthusiastically characterizes TABOR as "the calamity from Colorado." He warns us that "it will only create problems that will hurt Maine?s school children, and our families, our seniors and our communities." What he really means, of course, is that the voters will create problems if they are allowed to interfere with business that properly belongs to John Richardson, the Boo-Boo from Brunswick, and his colleagues. Not that we will be hearing them say that in so many words. Nor will be hearing a lot about the dubious achievements of LD1.

Fear will be the key to the anti-TABOR campaign. Official sources aided by every organized interest group dependent on gouging the taxpayer and abetted by a liberal-minded press will bombard the voters with vague warnings of disasters if they are allowed to have a say in taxation.

The objective of all this will not be to inform the voters, but to create unease and uncertainty. Mary Adams, Jack Wibby, the Maine Heritage Policy Center and other TABOR advocates will be out-spent by a wide margin. in the campaign to come. Every word they speak will be countered by ten or a hundred.

Confusion is the ally of our Masters in this contest. Confusion is the mother of unease and fear. It will help the voters to cut through the fog of propaganda if the keep their minds fixed on a few key questions.

First, should be taxpayer be allowed to have a direct say in taxation?

Second, is it reasonable to tie taxes and fees to the rate of inflation and population growth?

Third, is it unreasonable for the State of Maine to compete for number one rating in tax burden with states having far more economic resources?

Fourth, do you regard tax-home pay an allowance granted by the state?

Other questions might be asked, but these have priority and should be answered first. The voters should ask themselves whether Gov. Baldacci, Speaker Richardson, et al. are responding to them.

John Frary was born in Farmington, where he now resides. He graduated from U of M, Orono. He did graduate work in Political Science and in Ancient, Medieval, Byzantine and modern history at U of M., Rutgers and Princeton, completing his Masters degree along with all courses and examinations for the PhD. He worked in administration and as a professor of history and political science at Middlesex County College in Edison, NJ for 32 years. He is associate editor of The International Military Encyclopedia, has been assistant editor of Continuity: A Journal of History as well as editor and publisher The LU/English Newsletter. After returning to Maine he was chosen to be the conservative columnist for The Kennebec Journal and The Morning Sentinel. He was dismissed from this position in December for refusing to drop his criticism of the Dirigo Health Plan. He is currently chairman of the Franklin County Republican Committee.

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