Referendum Roundup

This year, voters will see two contests using the Ranked Choice Voting System. You have the option of picking who you like best by filling in the left-most oval, then ranking your next choices accordingly.

By Lura Jackson

Voters will be presented with determining their approval for five separate questions in this referendum election. Most of the questions are bond issues; the first is a citizen initiative.

Question 1: Senior Home Health Initiative

“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?”

Question 1 seeks to establish a universal home care benefit that would be funded entirely with a 3.8 percent tax on those that earn more than $128,400 a year. In other words, anyone making less than that amount would not have an additional tax. The new tax is estimated to generate between $180-$310 million a year from the higher-income Maine households that would be affected.

The program would enable adults 65 and older to receive long-term health care and social services in their homes at no cost. Income would not be a determining factor for receiving benefits through the program. The program and its trust fund would be overseen by a board of nine members representing personal care agencies, providers of in-home care services, and those receiving in-home care services.

The question is being hotly contested by two opposing sides. Mainers for Homecare is in favor of a “yes” vote. “There are tens of thousands of people in Maine right now who require in-home care and aren’t able to access it. Too many Mainers are forced to quit their jobs to provide care or to let their loved ones suffer or send them to a facility where they don’t want to be. This would attempt to address that,” Mike Tipping, a spokesperson for the Maine People’s Alliance, stated to the Bangor Daily News.

No on Question One is leading the opposition in hopes of a “no” vote. “The impact of yet another proposed surtax on individuals and businesses — with an even lower income threshold than what the Maine Legislature wisely repealed over the summer — will make it harder for Maine to do business, compete and grow our economy,” said Dana Connors, President of the Maine Chamber of Commerce, in an interview with the Free Press.

Bond Questions

The bond questions on the ballot relate to state sanitation, transportation, and education infrastructure.

Question 2 asks Mainers: “Do you favor a $30,000,000 bond issue to improve water quality, support the planning and construction of wastewater treatment facilities and assist homeowners whose homes are served by substandard or malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems?”

Question 2 bond funds would be spent in three ways: $27.65 million for wastewater treatment facilities around the state and for enhanced modeling on coastal watersheds; $2 million to replace faulty septic tanks affecting coastal watersheds; and $350,000 in assistance to homeowners with faulty septic systems.

Question 3 poses: “Do you favor a $106,000,000 bond issue, including $101,000,000 for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities and equipment related to ports, piers, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails, to be used to match an estimated $137,000,000 in federal and other funds, and $5,000,000 for the upgrade of municipal culverts at stream crossings?”

Question 3 bond funds would be divided as follows: $80 million for highways and bridges, including building new ones and rehabilitating old ones; $20 million for transportation facilities, including ports, airports, railroads, and transit trails for pedestrians or bicycles; $5 million in grant funds for municipalities to upgrade culverts in areas of vulnerable wildlife habitats; and $1 million to the Maine Maritime Academy to upgrade their pier.

Question 4 affects University of Maine at Machias, and asks: “Do you favor a $49,000,000 bond issue to be matched by at least $49,000,000 in private and public funds to modernize and improve the facilities and infrastructure of Maine’s public universities in order to expand workforce development capacity and to attract and retain students to strengthen Maine’s economy and future workforce?”

Question 4 bond funds would be allocated to the University of Maine. What projects will be undertaken at that point will be determined by the University System’s 16-member Board of Trustees.

Question 5 involves Washington County Community College. “Do you favor a $15,000,000 bond issue to improve educational programs by upgrading facilities at all 7 of Maine’s community colleges in order to provide Maine people with access to high-skill, low-cost technical and career education?”

Funds from Question 5 would be divided between the seven community colleges in the state. Washington County Community College would receive $885,853 to enhance its instructional laboratories, improve its information technology systems, and improve its instructional technologies in general.