Maine government sector lobbying
This practice is controversial because public funds are spent to lobby for an agenda not subject to direct approval by voters, and outcomes may be contrary ti taxpayers' benefit.
Legality and ethics of government sector lobbying
The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) filed suit in 2010 against the Maine Municipal Association through its Center for Constitutional Government. MHPC argues that as a governmental entity, the MMA has illegally contributed $2 million to support or oppose five ballot initiatives between 2003 and 2009:
"According to long-standing law, MMA’s contributions to and participation in the PACs and campaigns would be ruled improper governmental electioneering that violates voters’ civil rights. Under Maine law, MMA is a legal “instrumentality” of Maine’s municipalities and enjoys federal and state tax exemptions as a governmental entity. As a public entity, MMA is also subject to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act."
Among the initiatives the group has opposed:
- The 2006 and 2009 TABOR initiatives. TABOR, or the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, would have restricted the annual growth of state spending to the levels of inflation plus population growth.
- The 2009 car tax initiative. This measure would have cut the state excise tax on automobiles in half.
Opposition to TABOR
The Maine Municipal Association (MMA), a government sector lobbying association (see below) has been a chief opponent to the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or TABOR. This proposed bill would limit spending at all levels of government in two ways: first, by capping spending at the rate of inflation plus population growth, and secondly, by requiring voter approval for all tax and fee increases..
A representative for the MMA states his concerns that TABOR requires two-thirds of a governing body to initiate a citizen referendum to override the measure and increase spending beyond the limits, instead of a simple majority. Also, he notes, the bill is unclear about quasi-governmental agencies, such as water districts, and on its effects on municipalities which vote on their annual budgets through town meetings. The representative states that TABOR is "one of those situations where the more information people are given about the proposal, the more they'll understand some of the problems."
One columnist for the Kennebec Journal alleged that a political action committee that lobbied against TABOR, calling itself "Maine Citizens Who Support Public Schools," was really an arm of the MMA: its only contribution in 2009 was $10,000 from the Maine Municipal Association.
Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations
- "Tax-Taking Maine Municipal Association Sued Over Improper Electioneering," Americans for Tax Reform, June 3, 2010
- "Mainers to vote on referendum to limit government spending," October 13, 2006
- Kennebec Journal, "Tax burden would lessen if we raise personal income," April 30, 2009
- Kennebec Journal, "Columnist's take on TABOR false, condescending," May 14, 2009