A ballot initiative that would raise more money for education through higher taxes on incomes over $200,000 was approved by voters Tuesday, according to unofficial results Wednesday.

Question 2 asked voters whether they wanted to add a 3 percent tax on annual income of more than $200,000.

With 540 of 603 precincts reporting Wednesday, yes on Question 2 got 337,035 votes (50.7 percent); no received 326,819 votes (49.2 percent), according to the Bangor Daily News.

“The people of Maine have taken a giant step toward ensuring a strong future for our children, but this is a first step,” Yes on 2 campaign manager John Kosinski said Wednesday in a statement.

“It’s now up to us, the members of the coalition of supporters of Question 2, to hold our lawmakers accountable for executing the will of the people.” Passage of the referendum will be good for Maine, he said.

The referendum proponents are energized by the vote, and intend to turn that energy toward Augusta to help all Maine children get the education they deserve. “Now it’s time to stand up and work for students,” Kosinski said.

No on 2 Campaign spokesman Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said two things are clear from the close vote: “First, our state’s school funding challenges must be addressed.”

Maine’s business community remains committed to work with policymakers to find sustainable, equitable ways to better fund all Maine public schools — especially those with a higher population of poor students — while continuing to move Maine’s economy forward, he said.

“Second, this is hardly a mandate for a tax increase that would punish so many of our state’s small businesses, make Maine less attractive to businesses and professionals, and ultimately be detrimental to Maine’s economy,” Connors said.

Education policy is too important to the success of people and the state’s economy, Connors said. “We look forward to working with all parties to move this issue forward in the upcoming 128th Legislature,” he said.

In Lewiston-Auburn, voters said yes to Question 2; Lewiston voted 9,538 to 7,368 and Auburn, 6,258 to 5,591, according to unofficial returns.

The question was brought to the ballot by Yes on 2: Stand Up for Students, a campaign sponsored by the Maine Education Association, the state teachers’ union.

Yes on 2 said the 3 percent tax would raise millions of dollars for public education, would attract more people to Maine because public education would be better supported and good schools are powerful for economic development.

Based on the number of households with incomes of more than $200,000, Maine Revenue Services estimated $147 million in 2017 and $159 million in 2018.

If correct, projections show it would mean a boost of about $4 million for Lewiston schools next year, $3.26 million for Auburn, $3 million for Oxford Hills, $1.6 million for Turner-area schools, $1.2 million for Sabattus schools and $1.6 million for Poland-area schools.

The opposition campaign, No on 2: No Gain to Maine, was sponsored by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

It countered that the tax increase would give Maine among the highest income tax in the country, and that those earning more than $200,000 would leave or not move to Maine.

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