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Secretary of State Dunlap finalizes ballot language for Universal Home Care initiative

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After accepting public comment for 30 days on the wording of the upcoming Universal Home Care ballot initiative, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap on Monday, June 25 released the final language that will appear before Maine voters on Nov. 6.

Secretary Dunlap made significant changes to the ballot language, adding new information and reorganizing portions of the question to give voters better clarity of what the measure entails. Dunlap added the terms “home-based assistance” and “regardless of income,” recognized the wage threshold subject to Social Security employment tax is not a static figure and spelled out what exactly what income will be taxed under the proposal.

When Secretary Dunlap began accepting public comment on May 16 the question read:

Do you want to create the Universal Home Care Program, which will provide services to people with disabilities and senior citizens who need daily assistance in their homes, funded by a new tax of 3.8% on individual income over $128,400?”

The final language that Maine voters will see on the ballot reads:

“Do you want to create the Universal Home Care Program to provide home-based assistance to people with disabilities and senior citizens, regardless of income, funded by a new 3.8% tax on individuals and families with Maine wage and adjusted gross income above the amount subject to Social Security taxes, which is $128,400 in 2018?”

On June 6, The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) chief executive officer Matthew Gagnon sent a letter to Secretary Dunlap urging him to modify the language in order to give Maine voters a more accurate understanding of the ballot question. MHPC’s suggested language read:

“Do you want to establish three new taxes on income earned over the threshold subject to social security employment tax ($128,400 in 2018); two taxes totaling 3.8 percent on employers and employees for wages earned and paid out over the threshold, and an additional 3.8 percent tax on all other forms of income earned over the threshold, for the purpose of funding the Universal Home Care program, which will provide services to people with disabilities and senior citizens who need assistance in their homes regardless of income?”

Secretary Dunlap’s decision on the final wording is fair and will significantly improve voters’ ability to understand the question. It is imperative that Maine voters know there is no means testing to qualify for the services under the Universal Home Care program, as services will be provided regardless of income. They must also know that the wage threshold for Social Security employment tax is not static and that family earnings will be subject to a portion of the tax collected under this initiative.

While there is still time to educate Maine people on the harmful impacts of this initiative, Secretary Dunlap’s new ballot language brings transparency to a convoluted proposal and will equip Maine voters with the information they need to make an educated decision on election day.

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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