Commentary

MPA’s ‘Universal Home Care’ initiative does little to help elderly, disabled Mainers

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Supporters and volunteers of the Maine People’s Alliance (MPA) were set up at polling booths across the state on Election Day seeking signatures for a “Universal Home Care” initiative the group wishes to put on your 2018 ballot.

The MPA announced in late September their campaign to gather signatures for the initiative, which would supposedly provide in-home care services to elderly populations and persons with disabilities, regardless of income, by imposing three new taxes on Mainers.

However, the language of the referendum question approved by the Secretary of State’s office outlines a massive income redistribution scheme under the guise of in-home care services.

To begin, the bill imposes three new taxes on the Maine people. The first is a 1.9 percent payroll tax for employers on wages paid to employees over $127,200, or the income threshold subject to social security employment tax. The second is a 1.9 percent tax on employees for wages earned over that same threshold, combining to form a 3.8 percent payroll tax on wage earnings over $127,200. The last tax, also assessed at 3.8 percent, is imposed on nonwage earnings over $127,200.

Under the plan, all taxes collected must go into the Universal Home Care Trust Fund. However, only a small portion of revenues generated by the initiative would actually be spent on providing care to elderly and disabled Mainers. In-home care providers and other cooperating entities who receive funds from the Universal Home Care Program must spend a “minimum of 77 percent” of the funds they receive on “direct service worker costs.”

This means that providers will be spending, at maximum, only 23 percent of the funds they receive on the actual purpose of the program – providing in-home care services to seniors and disabled Mainers – while the majority of funds are used to give pay increases and employment benefits to low-level health care workers. In reality, the remaining 23 percent of funds may be used for both home care services and administrative costs associated with the program, meaning less than 23 percent of funds providers receive will actually be spent on providing care to elderly and disabled Mainers.

The language of the initiative reads, “A provider that fails to meet this direct service worker payment minimum may be suspended from the program or required to make additional payments to the respective direct service workers, or both.”

The initiative also establishes an avenue for the quasi-unionization of direct service workers by allowing them to join “constituency associations,” or groups that would be recognized by the Universal Home Care Board “for the purpose of allowing consumers and workers to advocate for their interests before the board, elected officials and the general public.” Those who join constituency associations must pay dues, similar to a labor union.

This initiative would be devastating for Maine’s small business economy. Sole proprietors who earn over the income threshold subject to social security employment tax will be required to pay both portions of the 1.9 percent taxes included in this initiative, and if they have additional nonwage earnings, they will pay an additional 3.8 percent tax on those earnings come tax season.

If you, like many, are sick of Maine’s broken referendum system, the solution is simple; don’t sign the petitions.

 

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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