I read with great surprise the piece by my state senator, Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, regarding Question 2 from November’s ballot (“Fund schools, but not with harmful tax,” May 11). Hard-working Mainers, energized by decades of legislative inaction and shifting tax burdens, worked to pass Question 2. I’m one of them. I am a parent of two in a public school, I sit on a school board of directors, and I teach high school government and economics in a public school.

Question 2 was the simplest question on the November ballot. It asked voters whether the wealthiest Mainers, those who make more than $200,000 a year, should pay a little more to better fund our public schools. Thibodeau disregards the will of the voters and the efforts of Mainers across the state to solve a problem that the Legislature has ignored and worsened for over a decade. Many in his party are continuing this refrain in the Legislature, setting a dangerous precedent the people of Maine should not allow.

Question 2 passed because Mainers such as myself and my colleagues participated in tens of thousands of conversations with other Mainers — parents, school board members, teachers, business leaders — at town meetings, county fairs, parent teacher association gatherings, and everywhere between. Voters heard the pros and the cons of Question 2. TV ads were purchased by the opposition to Question 2. Debates took place all over the state and broadcasted on Maine Public radio and TV. There were dueling newspaper stories and editorials. After an exhaustive campaign, it passed. On Nov. 8, more than 300,000 Mainers expressed their frustration with unfair tax shifts.

Still, some argue the voters weren’t aware what they were voting for or against. As one Republican legislator told me, your vote guarantees a choice, not an outcome. The Maine people made their choice. Question 2 received more votes than Hillary Clinton, more votes than Donald Trump and nearly 100,000 more votes than Paul LePage received when he won re-election in 2014. The voters aren’t stupid; their choice should be respected.

The anecdotal objections to Question 2 fly in the face of economic research and perpetuate the tax flight myth. Meanwhile, Sen. Thibodeau neglects to mention recent tax cuts that largely benefitted Maine’s highest earners. A 2013 Maine Policy Review study reports that to offset the loss of revenue, the Legislature increased sales taxes, eliminated property tax relief for low- and moderate- income households and shifted costs to municipalities, causing increased property taxes.

The result is a regressive tax system that forces low-income earners to pay higher portion of their income on taxes than high-income earners. Still, we have not seen an influx of high-income earners into the state. While the tax policies of the last six years have successfully shifted costs, Maine’s economic growth has lagged behind other New England states, including Connecticut, and the nation as a whole. Sen. Thibodeau seems open to providing “more resources for education,” however without additional revenues, other state programs will suffer cuts as funds are re-prioritized.


The Legislature has had over a decade to provide the funding for our schools, yet has continued to work against the 55 percent mandate passed in 2004. Why should we believe now will be any different? Question 2 does what the Legislature was unwilling to do for the past 12 years and restores a fair, progressive tax policy, essential for a strong middle class that supports a healthy economy.

Some have argued for an outright repeal of Question 2. In fact six separate bills were submitted this session to completely undo the will of the voters. In the past, Legislatures have amended the results of a people’s referendum question, but never have we seen an outright repeal of what the voters just approved. These brazen attempts to undo the will of the voters are a threat to our state’s democratic process and should be forcefully voted down. As I teach my children, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Just because the Legislature can overturn the will of the voters, doesn’t mean they should.

A few Republican legislators have threatened to shut down state government unless both the House and Senate agree to overturn the results of Question 2. Let that sink in. Legislators are threatening a shutdown of our government unless the wishes of 383,428 Maine voters are denied. This should cause all lovers of democracy to shudder.

Jesse Hargrove lives in Thorndike. He is a member of the Regional School Unit 3 board of directors.

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