AUGUSTA – Gov. John Baldacci’s multi-faceted tax relief plan seeks to bring the Powerball lottery game to Maine, cap municipal and county spending, slow the growth of school budgets, and mail targeted tax relief checks to less than half of Maine’s households.

An estimated 200,000 out of some 450,000 Maine households would get some kind of tax relief check from the state this year, while the Homestead Exemption for all homeowners would disappear.

Will all that be enough to persuade voters to reject two ballot questions, Carol Palesky’s tax cap referendum and the Maine Municipal Association’s referendum to mandate the state spend more on education?

Baldacci said he hopes so.

“”It may not be a 30-second sound bite, but I think it’s the right way to go,”” Baldacci said. “”The people of Maine are smart enough to figure out those issues, and I trust their judgment.””

While Palesky’s referendum may be tempting, people know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, Baldacci said.

But Palesky and the MMA predicted the governor’s plan won’t stop voters from embracing their ballot measures, that theirs will do more to cut property taxes. “”Taxpayers are smart enough to know that Baldacci’s plan will not work,”” Palesky said.

Both Palesky and the MMA complained that Baldacci’s plan would give relief only to moderate and low-income households, those with annual incomes of $65,000 or less, but that everyone needs help. “”Property taxes are too high for everyone,”” said Michael Starn of MMA. “”People in Maine are angry enough that they’re not going to accept it,”” Palesky agreed.

The MMA referendum would do more to lower taxes, Starn said. Baldacci’s plan offers $25 million more for education, “”but $25 million doesn’t give you much property tax relief,”” Starn said. By comparison, the MMA ballot question increases education spending by $250 million, 10 times what the governor proposes, he said. “”Our proposal has more significant property tax relief associated with it.””

Palesky also complained about the governor’s plan to introduce Powerball, saying “”gambling isn’t the way to go.”” And because Baldacci’s plan encourages schools and municipal services to consolidate, but does not force consolidation, Palesky questioned whether it would ever happen. “”The towns and schools are never going to give up their little kingdoms,”” she said. “”If there are six superintendents and six small schools, do you think five are going to give up their positions? No.””


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