LEWISTON – The Maine Municipal Association has gone on the offensive against the state’s oil dealers over their support of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

The MMA reacted with “frustration” and “dismay” at a decision by the state’s oil dealers’ association to endorse the Taxpayer Bill of Rights ballot question and has asked local government leaders to put pressure on the people who sell them heating oil and gasoline.

“Are Maine’s oil dealers pledging to keep their price increases for municipalities at or below the TABOR’s limits? If not, how are municipalities supposed to pay for price jumps above the TABOR limits? The only way we could do that is to cut in other areas. We find it alarming that MODA would adopt such a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ mentality,” wrote MMA President Ryan Pelletier and Vice President Nick Mavodones Jr. in a letter dated Sept. 12.

The Maine Oil Dealers Association’s noard of firectors voted in June to support TABOR, which would place tight limits on government’s ability to raise and spend money, and require a referendum vote to exceed those restrictions.

“We are taxpayers. Our 12,000 employees are taxpayers,” said Jamie Py, MODA’s president. “We would like something that would address all of our abilities to pay for the things we need.”

“Our folks are concerned about Maine being the No. 1 taxed state,” Py said. “That affects all Mainers.”

The MMA, which represents local government interests, opposes the proposal, which will appear on the ballot in November.

“We work very hard to balance the needs for services … and the goal of lower taxes,” Pelletier and Mavodones wrote. “As you know, sometimes costs increase in ways that are not related to population, inflation or assessed values. One of those costs at the local level is the price of oil.”

The letter was sent along with a memo from the MMA to municipal, school and county officials.

In the memo, the MMA urged local government leaders to contact their heating oil vendors and gasoline suppliers and “ask them why they have taken this position against the interests of their municipal, school and county customers. Ask your oil dealer when he or she will pledge to keep the prices of the products they purvey within your municipality’s irrational TABOR limits, which they apparently endorse for others but not themselves,” wrote the MMA’s Geoff Herman.

The letter does contain strong language, said Jeffrey Austin, a lobbyist with MMA, but its intent is to inform municipal leaders about the oil dealers’ decision, to have the politicians ask their local business partners if they know what their trade association has done and, if so, ask them “if they’re going to put their shoulders to the wheel and hold their bills to TABOR’s limits.”

“This is not a threat in any way,” Austin said. “It’s meant to be informative.”

Py said he received the letter and memo Tuesday and didn’t know what his organization’s formal response would be, prompting him to be cautious in talking with the Sun Journal.

“I’m sure they are trying to apply political pressure,” Py said.


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