TABOR on Trial III: The Maine Event

Maine already has a TABOR-like spending-limitation law. Proposed by Governor John Baldacci, it passed the state legislature in January 2005 — just two months after voters rejected a radical tax-capping initiative (the “Palesky Tax Cap”).

Baldacci, a Democrat, pre-empted further ballot wrangling over the Palesky cap by including in his bill the standard TABOR mechanism: viz., hitching the growth in state spending to income growth plus population growth. That bill took effect in July 2005.

You’d think the TABORites would declare victory. You’d be wrong.Maine voters will be asked this November to approve an even more draconian bill, one that required an act of the state supreme court to gain access to the ballot.

“Unlike Colorado’s TABOR bill, ours applies to all taxes and fees, including local fees” says Jud Dolphin, an official of Maine’s AARP chapter and one of the directors of Citizens United to Protect our Public Safety, Schools and Communities.

“So if one of our town libraries wants to raise the fine for an overdue book from a nickel to a dime, that increase would first have to pass at Town Meeting by a two-thirds majority; then there would have to be mailings to every household explaining the proposed increase, with arguments both pro and con; and finally there would be a general election, where it would have pass by majority vote.”

The campaign is being led by life-long antitax activist Mary Adams, who cut her teeth back in 1977 with a successful campaign to repeal Maine’s property taxes. Major donors include Howard Rich’s Chicago-based Americans for Limited Government and Yarmouth, Maine, activist W. Richard Jackson.

And so far, it’s winning.

“The polls show that people like the idea of controlling spending,” says Dolphin. “Mainers are susceptible to slogans and bumper stickers that sound good. But they’re also smart. People will look into this beyond a gloss level, and it will go down.”