Inside Augusta

Will Mainers get the chance to weigh in on Universal Home Care?

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If you were pushing one of the largest tax hikes in history on Maine citizens, would you want them to know about it? Would you want them to be able to weigh in on it?

Of course you wouldn’t.

Because if the Legislature held public hearings on such an idea, there is no question that Mainers, including business owners and everyday citizens, would show up and make their displeasure known.

If you thought the disastrous 3 percent surtax that the Maine People’s Alliance tried to saddle Maine with in 2016 was bad, you should be very afraid.  This new proposed tax will bleed roughly twice as much — a whopping $310 million — from Maine families every year.

Sadly, this proposal, engineered as yet another ill-conceived referendum by the MPA, is all too real. Worse, dozens of House Democrats are so afraid of the MPA that they actually voted to prevent public testimony on it last Thursday.

Fortunately, Republicans in the Senate today voted to refer the measure, LD 1864, to the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Taxation. The bill will now go back to the House, where it failed by just one vote last week.

The initiative, if passed at the ballot box in November, would create a massive government program to provide in-home and community support services for disabled and elderly Mainers – regardless of income – at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The language of the proposal lays out a program with poor oversight, a lack of bureaucratic accountability, forced unionism for home care workers, longer wait lists for needy Mainers and unclear spending rules that leave the door wide open for fraud and abuse.

“We need to make sure we get this right, and that’s why I supported sending it to committee,” Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Waldo, said in a press release Monday. “It would be unconscionable to send this out to the citizens of Maine without understanding what the economic impact of this major tax hike would be. Creating law without public hearings has proven to be dangerous in the past. We need to ensure we are getting all of the information about this bill, and today’s action by the Senate will allow us to do that.”

Much of the 128th Legislature’s work has been focused around repealing or modifying ballot initiatives passed in 2016, including the legalization of recreational marijuana, the 3 percent surtax for education funding (the source of last year’s government shutdown), ranked-choice voting, and the minimum wage. These measures did not receive committee hearings in 2016.

Question 1 in 2017, which asked Maine voters to approve a casino in York County, was the last ballot question to be referred to committee. The initiative failed with 83 percent of voters rejecting the measure.

If House Democrats refuse to refer the bill to committee, Mainers may have to wait until November to make their voices heard.

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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