Commentary

Don’t Be Fooled by Another Referendum That Claims to Solve Education Funding

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We all agree more money should go directly into the classroom to benefit students and teachers. But Question 2 on the November ballot won’t do that.

Question 2 is the latest in a line of ballot questions claiming to solve education funding in Maine. First they told us legalizing the lottery would be the silver bullet to fund education. Then it was the casinos, then it was making the state pay 55% of education costs. Now, they’re asking us to increase taxes on Maine families and small businesses to get more money for education.

The National Teachers’ Association is funneling out-of-state money into Maine to fund this proposal. It was written by the union bosses at the Maine Education Association to put salary increases for teachers into Maine law.

I agree we should increase teachers’ salaries. That’s why we should have a statewide teachers’ contract. Teachers in rural Maine would get the same pay as teachers in the wealthy cities and towns in Southern Maine. Let’s work together to get that done.

Instead of spending $1.4 million on political ads, I call on the teachers’ association to partner with my administration to invest in professional development for Maine teachers. But supporters of Question 2 want to impose a new tax on Maine households with incomes over $200,000. They say this money will go to education, but that is not true.

The money would be subject to the whims of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee—and they could spend it however they wish. You should know by now you cannot trust legislators to put the money where it belongs. Any extra tax revenue would most likely go to expand welfare, grow government and fund pet projects for legislators.

Besides, this money would not be distributed to every community. It would be directed to many in Southern Maine. Schools that are already spending more than the state’s Essential Programs and Services would get even more money.

Portland already spends $11.6 million over the state’s EPS. According to the MEA, Portland would get an additional $11.3 million. But 85 school districts representing more than 100 communities would get no extra money. Nearly 40 percent of school districts would get no additional funding. Towns like Acton, Blue Hill, Caratunk, Eustis, Lamoine and Greenville would get nothing. Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth would get millions more, but schools in Machiasport, Boothbay and York would receive zero.

Finally, this ballot question sends a terrible message. It says that if you are a successful Mainer, the government is going to tax your income by more than 10 percent. That’s the second-highest income tax in the country.

Maine’s high tax burden makes it difficult to attract doctors, scientists, engineers and other professionals. Taxing their income at 10 percent will discourage them from coming to Maine—and encourage those living here to pack their bags and leave. Chasing high-income job creators out of Maine will not increase money for education.

So don’t be fooled by this ballot question.

About Paul LePage

Governor Paul LePage (R) has served as the 74th Governor of Maine since 2011. Prior to his time as governor, LePage served as the general manager of Marden's and as the mayor of Waterville.

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