AUGUSTA (AP) – The Fed Up with Taxes coalition turned in more than 90,000 signatures to the secretary of state on Tuesday in its effort to force a statewide vote to repeal new taxes on beer, wine and soda.

More than 80 percent of the signatures have been validated by municipal clerks, said coalition Chairman Newell Augur. Even if some signatures are rejected, the coalition provided far more than the 55,087 signatures required by law to force a vote, he said.

“Voters from all over the state eagerly signed our petitions because Maine families are struggling in this difficult economy,” Augur said. “This is absolutely the worst time to be raising taxes on beverages, health care or anything else.”

At issue is a measure enacted by the Maine Legislature in April to increase taxes on beer and wine, soda, flavored water and other drinks to help bolster funding for Maine’s state-run Dirigo Health program.

It would also add a new tax on health insurance claims to replace an assessment on insurers.

The secretary of state has 30 days from Thursday, which was the deadline to turn in the petitions, to validate the signatures.

Opponents of the initiative said if the measure gets on the ballot and passes, it will take away health coverage from 18,000 Mainers as well as take away funding that would make individual health care coverage more affordable for 40,000 more people.

“We believe Maine people will support innovative approaches to affordable health coverage over the profits of out-of-state beer and soda companies,” said Jenn white, coordinator of the Health Coverage for Maine organization.


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