Maine GOP platform includes lower taxes


AUGUSTA – Maine Republicans approved a party platform Saturday that calls for constitutional amendments protecting traditional marriage and ensuring that state spending never grows faster than income.

Before finalizing the statement of party principles and initiatives, delegates added four new items and rejected a fifth.

The added language takes a stand against taxes on Internet services, supports oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, encourages Republican candidates to take an anti-tax pledge and prompts Maine colleges to welcome diverse views – including those of conservatives.

While the party manifesto makes clear in several cases party loyalists’ distaste for runaway taxes and big government, delegates rejected as too restrictive a proposal to cut corporate income tax rates at least in half and reduce individual rates over several years.

Palmyra delegate Hadley Smith, who proposed it, said lower taxes were needed to remedy the “dismal, rock-bottom investment climate.” Smith also said Maine’s tax rates exceed those of other northeastern states.

But Robert Daigle, a state representative from Arundel, said planks that set such specific goals lock party candidates into positions when they campaign, “handcuffing” them when they go door-to-door.

“I don’t believe this can help our candidates,” said Daigle.

The platform voices support for a Maine Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which seeks to limit annual spending increases for state and local governments and schools to the rate of inflation plus increases in population.

The so-called TABOR plank went before the GOP delegates just two days after the state supreme court ruled that a taxpayer bill of rights referendum question can go before voters as early as November.

Mary Adams of Garland, who has spearheaded the TABOR initiative, also won passage of an add-on plank encouraging GOP candidates to sign a “pledge” against higher taxes.

“It seems that the voter is entitled to evidence that if you’re elected, they’re protected,” Adams told the delegates.

Daigle again argued that the proposal hamstrings candidates by locking them into a stand.

“This is a mechanism that can only divide the party,” said Daigle.

The plank encouraging colleges to be more open to conservative views, offered by Maine College Republicans Chairman Matthew Walton, encountered no opposition before its adoption. Walton, saying liberal ideologies dominate college campuses, said the schools should offer “a marketplace of ideas where all ideologies … are respected.”

The ANWR plank runs counter to the position Maine’s two GOP U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, have taken on the issue in Senate votes.

In general, the Republican platform states the party’s opposition to government regulation that thwarts business growth and a healthy state economy, while taking a conservative approach on “family values” issues.

It states support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“We believe in the sanctity of life and the right of parents to be involved in the reproductive choices of their minor children,” the statement of principles says.

It opposes all efforts to raise taxes and fees at the state and national levels, and calls for reforms of all regulations that have a negative effect on large and small businesses and traditional Maine industries of manufacturing, forestry, fishing and farming.

The platform seeks mandatory minimum sentences “whenever appropriate.” Mandatory minimums were at issue this year in two high-profile legislative bills that sought to increase penalties for sexual crimes against children and for driving after license suspension or revocation.

The platform states support for a market-based alternative to Maine’s Dirigo universal health insurance access program, which is championed by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci. Dirigo funding remains at issue in the unfinished 2006 legislative session.

The platform also states support for President Bush and his efforts “to continue the defense of our nation against terrorist attacks.”

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