AUGUSTA – Rep. Ray Pineau, D-Jay, and Rep. Rodney Jennings, D-Leeds, are supporting a measure the House of Representatives approved May 9 to create a fund for the maintenance and upkeep of Maine veterans’ cemeteries.

Pineau sponsored the proposal, which calls for Maine’s individual income tax return to contain a checkoff so taxpayers can make voluntary donations. Revenue from the checkoff may exceed $100,000 over the next two years, according to estimates by the Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review. Donations would begin at $1.

“It is increasingly important to make sure that we honor those who have served out state and country,” said Pineau. “This tax checkoff gives every Maine resident an opportunity to make a contribution that will pay tribute to our veterans, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Jennings said current military conflicts throughout the world serve as a reminder of the obligation to past and present veterans.

“With the country facing more struggles throughout the world, we must be mindful of the responsibility we have back home to treat our fallen warriors with dignity,” said Jennings. “A small contribution through the tax checkoff could have a large impact on individual families who visit the graves of their loved ones.”

Since 2002, Maine’s three veterans’ cemeteries have seen a nearly 29 percent decrease in funding for upkeep from the state agency that administers veteran services. A staff of eight full-time and four seasonal employees maintains roughly 300 acres, which includes more than 15,000 graves, with two facilities in Augusta and a third in Caribou.

There are 12 funds benefiting from voluntary tax checkoffs. Together they garnered about $415,000 in tax year 2003, the most recent year for which complete date is available.

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