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Maine Tax Code People's Veto, Question 1 (June 2010)

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The Maine Tax Code People's Veto, Question 1 was on the June 8, 2010 ballot in Maine as a veto referendum where it was approved. Voter approval of the measure resulted in the veto of tax reforms approved by the legislature and signed by the governor in 2009.[1][2][3]

The petition was originally filed in June 2009 through the People's Veto provision. Originally supporters focused on getting the measure on the 2009 November ballot but in July 2009 they announced that they would instead collect signatures for the June 2010 election.[4][5]

In mid-June 2009, Maine lawmakers filed an application for a people's veto referendum to challenge a recently enacted tax code overhaul (LD 1495). The overhaul included an income tax rate cut, a broadening of the state sales tax to more items and an increase in the state meals and lodging tax. The overhaul passed the Maine Legislature and was signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci. The referendum called for voters to repeal the package in its entirety.[6][7]

If the law was not repealed by voters in June, the tax code changes would have gone into effect January 2011.[8][9][10]

Election results

Question 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 193,960 60.8%
No124,92839.2%

Official election results via the Maine Secretary of State.

Text of measure

The ballot language read as follows:[11]

Do you want to reject the new law that lowers Maine's income tax and replaces that revenue by making changes to the sales tax?

A "yes" vote on Question 1 overturned the law. A "no" vote maintained the tax changes.

Support

Sponsors of the referendum included Republican Party Chairman Charles Webster, Senate Minority Leader Kevin Raye and House Minority Leader Joshua Tardy.[12] In April 2010 the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute joined the list of organizations in support of Question 1 and asked its members to support the veto.[13] According to reports, the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau also supported Yes on 1.[14]

A group called Vote YES to Reject New Taxes launched a campaign on April 8, 2010 in support of the proposed veto.[15]

Vote yes logo(ME2010).png

Arguments

  • Referendum supporters argued that although the overhaul was designed to lower income tax, the package would also broaden the sales tax to include items like car repairs and increase the meals and lodging tax from 7 percent to 8.5 percent. Additionally they said that it eliminates income tax deductions and exemptions from the tax code.[6]
  • At a May 18, 2010 Rockport Forum Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association, asked voters to approve the veto. "The largest industry in the state is tourism. So why would we want to alienate people who come here and support our largest industry and our largest employer," he said.[16]
  • Curtis Pickard of the Maine Merchants Association argued that while the proposed reforms may cut income taxes, the state expands sales tax and the meal-and-lodging tax in order to compensate for the lost revenue. That he said, he did not agree with. "I don't like short little sound bites. I don't like having to go out there and say '100 new taxes,' but that's what you have to do to get the message across to get people to pay attention that their industry is likely on that list," said Pickard.[17]
  • The Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce voted to support the repeal of the new tax laws. President Cathy Goodwin said, "It is an expansion if state sales tax, which would affect numerous new categories of small businesses and their customers." The tax, they said, implements taxes on more than 50 services not currently taxed by the state of Maine. Such taxes include: auto repair, amusement parks, dry cleaning, vehicle towing and limousine services. The new tax law also increases sales taxes on liquor, meals and lodging and car rentals.[18]

Donors

Sen. David Trahan organized a PAC called Still Fed Up With Taxes in support of the tax code referendum. On July 20, 2009, the group announced that they collected more than $7,000 in donations and over $10,000 in pledges.[19] The main campaign PAC - Vote YES to Reject New Taxes - had an estimated $27,180 in cash contributions as of June 2, 2010. The PAC received an estimated $13,840 in in-kind contributions and spent about $8,297 in operating costs.[20]

Below is a chart that outlines major cash contributions to the Vote YES to Reject New Taxes Campaign, as of June 2, 2010:[21][22]

Contributor Amount
Maine Association of Realtors[23] $222,589
Maine Automobile Dealers Association[24] $5,000
Maine Restaurant Association[24] $5,000
Maine Tourism Association[24] $5,000
NFIB - Safe Trust $2,000

Opposition

A group called No Higher Taxes for Maine launched a campaign on April 8, 2010 in opposition of the proposed veto.[25] "We haven't had tax relief in this state for 40 years. And this is going to bring real tax relief to Maine people," said Crystal Canney, spokeswoman for No Higher Taxes.[18] Also in opposition was the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. According to reports, the organization announced their opposition, a switch in opinion, in May 2010.[26] Previously, in 2009 the chamber asked Gov. John Baldacci to veto the tax reform because according to reports they worried about the effects on the tourism industry.[27]

Other endorsements included former Gov. Angus King and the Maine Today Media chain. Maine Today Media owns the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal and the Waterville Sentinel.[14]

Gov. Baldacci announced his opposition to Question 1 and urged voters to vote "no" on the proposed veto during his weekly radio address.[28]

Rep. John Piotti, the original sponsor of the legislation, defended his tax proposal at a Rockport Forum on May 18, 2010. Piotti argued that the current tax system was broken. Of the tax reform, which is on hold until the June vote, he said, "It is designed to take in the same amount of money we do now, just in a smarter manner."[16]

NoHigherTaxes logo (ME).jpg

Arguments

  • Opponents of the referendum said the overhaul package will reduce the tax burden on Maine residents by $55 million. Additionally, they argued that it would lower the top income tax rate from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent for income up to $250,000, and the top income tax rate for incomes above $250,000 from 8.5 percent to 6.85 percent.[6]
  • Rep. John Piotti argued that if the issue had not been placed on the statewide ballot Maine residents would already be paying less in taxes. This he said was a result of "misguided politics." According to Piotti by the time voters vote in June, "the delay caused by placing this issue on the ballot will have already cost Mainers over $20 million in savings and hundreds of new jobs! We can't afford to pass up that kind of opportunity anytime, but especially not now."
    • In support of the state tax reform Piotti said, "The new law lowers the top income tax from 8.5% to 6.5% (on income under $250,000) and to 6.85% (on income over $250,000). But most Mainers will pay far less than 6.5%, due to a system of new household credits. Income taxes will drop for over 95% of Mainers. At the same time, the new law expands Maine's narrow sales tax base in order to stabilize revenues and export more of the tax burden to nonresidents. But in the end, the new system puts more money back in the pockets of Mainers. Nearly 90% of Mainers see an OVERALL tax cut (once both sales and income taxes are included)."[31]
  • Wick Johnson, owner of Kennebec Technologies, said he liked that the tax reform cut the income tax rate for almost all Mainers by two percent. "You can't have economic development in a climate that totally discourages economic development. Nobody in their right mind who expects to be a high income person would start a business in Maine at this point in time," said Johnson.[17]

Donors

The main campaign PAC - No Higher Taxes for Maine - had an estimated $337,180 in cash contributions as of June 2, 2010. The PAC spent an estimated $303,741.97 in expenditures to oppose the proposed measure and $132.76 in operating costs.[32]

Below is a chart that outlines major cash contributions to the No Higher Taxes for Maine Campaign, as of June 2, 2010:[33][34]

Contributor Amount
Donald Sussman, chairman of Trust Asset Management[24] $150,000
Daniel Tishman, chairman of Tishman Construction Corp.[24] $50,000
Sheryl Crockett Tishman[24] $50,000
Leon Gorman, chairman of L.L. Bean $25,000
Iberdrola USA Corp. $15,000

Media endorsements

Main article: Endorsements of Maine ballot measures, 2010

Support

  • Foster's Daily Democrat supported Question 1. In an editorial the board said, "The bottom line for voters is that the Legislature didn't do its homework on this tax package. It didn't spend the time needed to measure its true impact. It did not look hard enough at the plight of the average wage earner who will be hit hardest. The Maine Legislature needs to be sent back to the drawing board with a yes vote on Question 1 (People's Veto)..."[35]

Opposition

  • The Bangor Daily News opposed to Question 1. The editorial board said, "The tax reform bill is a complex piece of legislation, and it is easily demonized by those who highlight parts and ignore others. This plan makes Maine more competitive with other states for business development, and eases the burden on almost all of us. It must not be derailed."[36]
  • The Sun Journal opposed to Question 1. "If Question 1, the repeal of tax reform, passes Tuesday, it will represent a victory for demagoguery over dispassionate truth. And you will likely be cheated out of paying lower taxes for years to come. The people urging a "Yes on One" vote Tuesday have, in their TV ads, desperately tried to beat a complex issue into a cynical, emotional sound bite — ordinary people getting "short-changed" by the wealthy," said the editorial board.[37]
  • The Journal Tribune opposed Question 1. In an editorial the board said, "We can’t support a “Yes” vote on Question 1, and encourage voters to weigh the issue carefully before supporting this veto. Tax reform won’t help everyone, but if each household and business could take the time to calculate its own self-interest, this version of tax reform would become more popular." However, the board goes on to say, "Tax reform has been a hard sell. If it becomes necessary to try again, we’d like to see legislators spread the net sales tax net more broadly, rather than targeting only certain businesses to bear this new burden."[38]

Television ads


Yes on One ad, 5-24-10
See also: Maine Question 1 (2010), supporters, TV ads

Support: In May 2010 the Maine Association of Realtors purchased air time for two television ads in support of repealing a tax reform law. According to reports the organization spent $197,511, though a committee called "Save the Mortgage Interest Deduction Ballot Question Committee."[39] The first television ad in support of Question 1 was released May 8, 2010. The ad's background was a wedding and highlights all of the taxes due to the new tax reforms and their impact. It ended with "Speak now or forever pay new Maine taxes. Vote Yes on One."[40] A second ad was released May 19, 2010. Like the first ad, the second - "Vote Yes on Blues" - featured all the taxes due to the new tax reforms.[41] Two additional ads were released on May 24, 2010. The first ad opened with "If Question One does not pass on June 8 it means another government bailout for the wealthy and Maine people get shortchanged again. In fact as Maine's wealthiest 1% get tax cuts you will end up paying...It's just not fair."[42] The second ad released in late pay features a similar message to all previously released tv ads - the taxes imposed by new tax reforms, as well as a focus on the notion that Maine's wealthiest would receive tax cuts while other Mainers wouldn't.[43]

See also: Maine Question 1 (2010), opponents, TV ads

Opposition: In May 2010 opponents released their first television ads. One ad showed a woman trying to coax her pet lobster to move. The ad said that "Mainers know a bad idea when we see one. Like Question One, a plan to raise income taxes in a bad economy."[44] The second ad used the same statement but showed a man strapping a car seat for his young child to the back of his motorcycle.[45] Two more ads were released May 28, 2010 by No Higher Taxes for Maine. The first ad featured Wick Johnson, Kennebec Technologies president, who said he "knows how rough this economy has been." He asked voters not to be swayed by "special interests" and said, "If Question One passes and our income taxes go up it could crush any hope of recovery. But if we say no to question one we can rebuild our economy and attract new jobs. Raising income tax rates by 30% in a weak economy is a job killer. It's that simple."[46] The second television ad featured the same message with John Cashwell, managing director of Portage Chip Mill, as the spokesperson.[47]


No on One ad, 5-12-10

Controversy

On May 28, 2010 opponents of Question 1 accused supporters of running misleading ads. However, supporters argued that opponents are the ones running misleading ads. According to the television ad it described the legislatively-approved tax reforms as "another government bailout for the wealthy." However, opponents argued that the claims of how many people would receive tax deductions through the tax reform was false in the television ad. "It’s simply not true. Independent research from the nonpartisan office of the Maine Revenue Service shows all levels of income benefit from the tax relief bill. It’s unfortunate that during a campaign the truth is not the first rule but, in the case with the Yes on 1 campaign, it is not even an afterthought," said Christopher St. John of the Maine Center on Economic Policy.[48]

However, Sen. David Trahan, a leader of the campaign to repeal the tax reform law, argued that opponents' television ads are "stretching the truth." Trahan noted that according to No on 1 ads voting "yes" would increase income taxes, when in fact income taxes would remain the same, he said. The tax reforms haven't gone into effect because of the referendum, therefore the income taxes have not yet been affected, argued Trahan. He also said that opponents have "over-inflated" their numbers of who would see a decrease in taxes.[48][49]

Polls

See also: Polls, 2010 ballot measures
Legend

     Position is ahead and at or over 50%     Position is ahead or tied, but under 50%

  • A poll conducted from April 28 through May 7 by Critical Insights revealed that approximately 43% of registered voters would not vote to overturn tax reforms, while 38% are would vote yes and 19% are undecided. According to the pollster 600 registered voters were polled during phone interviews. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.[50]
Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
April 28 - May 7, 2010 Critical Insights 38% 43% 19% 600

Path to the ballot

See also: Maine signature requirements and 2010 ballot measure petition signature costs

The Maine Constitution allowed for a referendum to overturn a law only if opponents could collect at least 10% of the number of people who voted in the last governor’s election - 55,087 signatures. The signatures were required to be submitted by mid-September 2009.[6]

Lawsuit against secretary of state

On November 2, 2009 Still Fed Up With Taxes filed a lawsuit with the Kennebec County Superior Court requesting that the court order Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to finish reviewing signatures for the referendum.[51] The group filed petitions supporting the referendum in September 2009 but state election officials didn't verify the signatures. The verification deadline was October 13, 2009.[52]

Judge rules against secretary

Maine Superior Court Judge Donald Marden ruled in favor with state Republicans that challenged the secretary of state. According to attorney Dan Billings, who represents the Maine Republican party chairman Charlie Webster, who led the challenge: "The legal issue involved was concerning the Secretary of State's legal authority to continue to review and pass judgment on petitions after the 30-day deadline set by state law. And what Justice Marden said is that the statute limited the Secretary of State's authority to 30 days, and because the Maine constitution says any review of petitions has to be done in compliance with state law, after the 30 days passed the secretary of state no longer had any authority to review the petitions."[53]

  • On December 21, 2009 the lower state court ruled that should an election official take longer than the allotted time to verify the signatures, the petition would be deemed valid.[54]

Sufficient signatures collected

As of November 9, 2009 supporters submitted a total of 56,107 valid signatures - 1,020 more than the minimum requirement - according to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.[11]

Petitions challenged

Opponents of the referendum filed a lawsuit, Johnson v. Dunlap, with the Kennebec Superior Court, challenged the certified petitions. According to opponents, Maine's Secretary of State should not have certified the petition for the ballot because two of the notaries that notarized the petitions got married and did not notify the state that their last names had changed. A hearing on the matter was scheduled for January 1, 2010.[55]

Judge validates petitions

On December 23, 2009 Maine's lower state court ruled that despite the challenge, the petitions were valid. According to the judge's ruling, if the notary who notarized the petitions wrote the incorrect information about their own qualifications, the petitions remain valid.[54]

See also

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Support

Opposition

Articles

External links

Additional reading

References

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Ballotpedia has an article on:
  1. Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Maine Voters Repeal Tax Reform Law," June 9, 2010
  2. Business Week,"Maine Voters Halt Income Tax Cut in Ballot Question (Update2)," June 9, 2010
  3. Foster's Daily Democrat,"Maine repeals controversial tax law," June 9, 2010
  4. Sun Journal,"Tax repeal PAC aims for June ballot," June 21, 2009
  5. WABI,"Maine Tax Code People's Veto, Question 1," May 12, 2010
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Associated Press,"Republicans attack tax overhaul," June 20, 2009
  7. WMTW,"Question 1 Would Change Tax Structure," May 25, 2010
  8. The Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Maine Lawmakers OK Date Change for Tax Reform Law," April 7, 2010
  9. Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Your Vote 2010: Question 1 and Candidate Conversations," May 20, 2010
  10. The Portland Press Herald,"Maine's Choice: Reform tax code, or let it be," May 30, 2010
  11. 11.0 11.1 Morning Sentinel,"Repeal of tax overhaul OK'd for June ballot," November 10, 2009
  12. Associated Pres,"Top Republicans attack Maine tax overhaul," June 19, 2009
  13. Laundry and Cleaning News,"DLI campaigns to reject Maine drycleaning tax," April 21, 2010
  14. 14.0 14.1 Bangor Daily News,"Question 1 camps gather support of heavy hitters," June 6, 2010
  15. WCSH6,"Tax reform groups kick off campaigns," April 8, 2010
  16. 16.0 16.1 Bangor Daily News,"Question 1 debated at Rockport forum," May 19, 2010
  17. 17.0 17.1 Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Maine Business Owners Divided on Tax Reform Repeal," May 19, 2010
  18. 18.0 18.1 Seacoast Online,"Heat is on for Maine tax Law," June 2, 2010
  19. Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Tax Law Opponents say Donations Rolling In," July 20, 2009
  20. Maine Campaign Finance,"PAC Summary: Vote YES to Reject New Taxes," accessed June 2, 2010
  21. Maine Campaign Finance,"Vote YES to Reject New Taxes Campaign:Quarterly - April," April 2, 2010
  22. Maine Campaign Finance,"Vote YES to Reject New Taxes Campaign: 11-day Pre-Primary," May 28, 2010
  23. The Portland Press Herald,"Realtors spending big to repeal Maine tax reform," June 2, 2010
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 24.5 The Portland Press Herald,"Reports show reform effort contributors," June 3, 2010
  25. News 13,"Campaign Begins to Preserve Maine Tax Reform," April 9, 2010
  26. 26.0 26.1 The Portland Press Herald,"Maine State Chamber opposes Question 1," May 12, 2010
  27. The Portland Press Herald,"Maine chamber shifts stance, says it backs tax reform law," May 13, 2010
  28. Associated Press,"Gov Urges Mainers To Vote For Bond Proposals," June 5, 2010
  29. Associated Press,"Regional Chamber of Commerce endorses Maine bonds," May 20, 2010
  30. Bangor Daily News,"Vote no on Question 1 to lower taxes and improve the economy," May 29, 2010
  31. The Free Press,"Vote NO on Question 1," May 13, 2010
  32. Maine Campaign Finance,"PAC Summary: No Higher Taxes for Maine," accessed June 2, 2010
  33. Maine Campaign Finance,"No Higher Taxes for Maine - Quarterly - April," April 12, 2010
  34. Maine Campaign Finance,"No Higher Taxes for Maine - 11-day Pre-Primary," May 28, 2010
  35. Foster's Daily Democrat,"Maine tax changes overreach," May 18, 2010
  36. Bangor Daily News,"No on Question 1," May 26, 2010
  37. Sun Journal,"Vote 'No' on Question 1 to save tax reform," June 3, 2010
  38. The Journal Tribune,"Question 1: A chance to vote against tax reform," May 25, 2010
  39. Kennebec Journal,"Realtors back tax-overhaul repeal," May 27, 2010
  40. YouTube,"Vote YES to Reject New Taxes - Vote Yes on One," May 8, 2010
  41. YouTube,"Vote YES to Reject New Taxes - Vote Yes on Blues," May 19, 2010
  42. YouTube,"Vote YES to Reject New Taxes - YES on ONE - Reject New Taxes - TV Commercial 1 - Just Not Fair," May 24, 2010
  43. YouTube,"Vote YES to Reject New Taxes -Reject New Taxes - TV Commercial 2 - Auto Repair," May 24, 2010
  44. YouTube,"NoHigherTaxes for Maine - TV Ad," May 12, 2010
  45. YouTube,"NoHigherTaxes for Maine - TV Ad 2," May 12, 2010
  46. YouTube,"NoHigherTaxes for Maine - TV Ad 3," May 28, 2010
  47. YouTube,"NoHigherTaxes for Maine - TV Ad 4," May 28, 2010
  48. 48.0 48.1 Bangor Daily News,"Ads vex tax reform friends, foes," May 28, 2010
  49. Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Question One TV Ad Under Fire," May 28, 2010
  50. Bangor Daily News,"Tax question may hinge on voter turnout," May 27, 2010
  51. Kennebec Journal,"Battle over tax signatures lands in court," November 3, 2009
  52. Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Anti-tax Group Taking State to Court Over Petition Delay," November 2, 2009
  53. Maine Public Broadcasting Network, "Judge Sides With Tax Opponents in Petition Dispute," December 23, 2009
  54. 54.0 54.1 Ballot Access News,"Lawsuit Victories in Maine Referendum Petition Cases," December 29, 2009
  55. Ballot-Access,"Maine Petition is Under Attack Because Notaries Public Who Certified Petition Sheets Got Married and Didn’t Change Their Names in State Records," November 30, 2009