Supporters of a fall ballot question that would create a universal home health care system by assigning new taxes on Maine’s higher earners may not want to link the issue with their choice for governor. That’s because all four gubernatorial candidates have now declared their opposition to the initiative, which would provide daily in-home living services for Mainers older than 65 and those with disabilities through new targeted payroll taxes.
Question 1 on this fall’s ballot would generate more than $300 million annually by assessing a combined 3.8 percent payroll tax on all Mainers who earn just over $128,000. That aligns with the cutoff for Social Security employment taxes. The money would be used to provide health care services to older Mainers and those with disabilities.
Although 75,000 voters signed petitions to place the question on the ballot, all four candidates for governor say they are opposed to the initiative. Newell Augur, spokesman for the “Stop the Scam” political action committee that opposes Q1, says he’s not surprised.
“This is a huge tax, it’s going to affect any household in the state of Maine that’s filing more than $128,400 a year, and that’s why all four of our gubernatorial candidates have taken a look at this and decided this is absolutely the wrong solution for the state of Maine, and that’s why the no vote in November makes sense” he says.
In an interview with the Bangor Daily News, all four gubernatorial candidates rejected the proposal as a tax increase on Mainers — including Democratic candidate Janet Mills, who told the paper that as governor, she would “do what was right for Maine and not do merely what is politically correct or expedient.”
At the Maine People’s Alliance, a progressive advocacy group that supports Q1, the announced opposition to the initiative by all four candidates was dismissed as consistent with the ongoing political gridlock at the State House.
“Politicans don’t like it when people take legislative issues like this out of their hands and solve it for themselves,” says Mike Tipping, the group’s communications director. “I guess in some way I am heartened that these politicians think that the legislative process can solve this issue — it obviously hasn’t.”
Earlier this month, the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services weighed in on the issue, saying that if Question 1 is approved and implemented, it would adversely affect several significant economic and demographic measures, including the state’s population and job sector.