MMA Endorses Four Ballot Questions

(from Maine Townsman, October 2005)
By Geoff Herman, Director of State & Federal Relations, MMA

In addition to any local referenda questions, Maine’s voters will be presented seven separate ballot questions on Tuesday, November 8 th, election day. Among the offerings are a proposed “peoples’ veto” of legislation enacted to provide certain civil rights, five bond proposals, and a proposed constitutional amendment that would create a new “current use” taxation category for waterfront land used for commercial fishing activities.

At its September meeting, the Maine Municipal Association Executive Committee reviewed the several ballot questions, identified four of those questions as being directly pertinent to municipal government, and voted to support all four.

Question #2. The second ballot question is the proposed transportation bond. If approved by the voters, a $33.1 million bond would be issued, leveraging $158 million in federal matching funds. The combined revenue would allow for improvements to Maine’s highways and bridges, airports, public transit systems, state-owned ferries and ferry facilities, port facilities and harbor structures, and bicycle and pedestrian trails.

Question #3. The third ballot question proposes a $8.9 million environmental bond which would leverage $31 million in federal funds. The combined revenue would be earmarked for a number of environmental and agricultural uses, including financial support for a revolving loan fund used by Maine’s wastewater facilities to finance pollution-reducing improvements, the “small community program” which provides financial support for septic system replacements in rural Maine, and infrastructure upgrades at public drinking water facilities.

Question #4. Called by some a “jobs bond” or the “R&D” bond, Question #4 is a $20 million proposed bond designed to stimulate Maine’s economy, particularly in the areas of medical research, marine research, and high-growth technologies. Among other investments triggered by the bond, a career center facility would be created at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College, along with the Sunrise Business and Career Center in Jonesboro.

Question #7. Maine’s Constitution currently provides that all property must be assessed equally and the resulting property taxes must be apportioned equally, according to the “just value” or market value of the property, but there are three exceptions. Agricultural land, Tree Growth land and “Open Space” land, if properly qualified, are assessed according to their “current use” value instead of their market value. Within “current use” categories, land is assessed a value as though there is no market interest in the property except for the practice or industry associated with the way the property is currently being utilized. If Question #7 is approved by the voters, the Constitution would be amended to create a new “current use” category, which would be waterfront land used for commercial fishing activities. This proposed amendment was presented to the voters in 2000, and narrowly defeated. MMA’s Executive Committee voted to support Question #7 in response to the extraordinary pressure placed on working waterfront lands by the residential market.