AUGUSTA (AP) – Two central Maine newspapers urged voters to reject both of the Nov. 2 referendum ballot questions, which propose a property tax cap and new restrictions on bear hunting.

In editorials in Monday’s editions, the Kennebec Journal of Augusta and Morning Sentinel of Waterville said the proposal to ban baiting, trapping and hounding of bears isn’t even appropriate for a public vote.

The two newspapers say the manner and method of hunting should be left to the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife or the Legislature.

The current rules are “good enough for us and, because there is no way to vote not appropriate,’ we endorse voting no’ on this question,” the editorials say.

Gov. John Baldacci planned to take his message against the referendum proposal Monday evening to a Kittery forum of the Associated Sportsmen Clubs of York County.

Acknowledging a close race, Baldacci said the side that gets its message out best will win.

“We don’t need outside interests telling us how to manage Maine’s bear population,” the governor said in prepared remarks.

There was no immediate response to the editorials from the pro-referendum group, Maine Citizens for Fair Bear Hunting.

On its Web site, the group says Maine is the only state that still allows trapping bears with leghold traps for sport, and Maine is one of nine states that allows the use of bait to lure bears.

In their Sunday editions, the two central Maine newspapers also call for “no” votes on Question 1, which seeks to cap property taxes at 1 percent of valuation.

The matching editorials in the two Blethen Maine Newspapers say the cap would result in unacceptable municipal and school budget cuts, higher state taxes and loss of local control.

“The answer to property-tax relief is not a badly crafted, largely unconstitutional referendum,” the editorials say.

Phil Harriman, spokesman for Tax Cap YES!, noted that the newspapers have not denied that there is a problem with high property taxes in Maine, and “We take that as an encouraging sign.”

But Harriman said he was disappointed local officials are presenting only the worst-case scenario if the tax measure passes.

WCSH-TV and WLBZ-TV have carried editorials supporting passage of Question 1, but said they were doing so “reluctantly” as a way to force the Legislature to make property taxes its highest priority.



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