Thursday, April 24, 2008

If the petition comes, I'll sign it.

Sometime, probably next week as the deadline for action approaches, we’ll find out if there’s enough anger in Maine to get a “people’s veto” on the November ballot. The discussion that’s going on in many places on many levels concerns the Democrats, with one Republican, enacting a law that increases the taxes we pay on beer, wine, and soda. Included in that are just about all other types of bottled drinks. There are several exceptions. The Democrats are desperate to find a way to fund their five year Dirigo insurance failure.

If the decision is made to go forward, the groups circulating petitions to get the veto on the November ballot will have just 90 days from the adjournment of the Legislature to gather nearly 56,000 signatures. That puts it into mid-July. The next “if” is, if they do get that many signatures, then the new taxation law will stop and funding Dirigo will return to the system that is currently failing.

Along with the doubling of the taxes on beverages, the new law also levies a tax of 1.8 percent on paid insurance claims. That is one element of the new law that gets swept under the carpet in discussions, but if you think 1.8 percent is insignificant, it will raise about 65-million dollars a year for Dirigo. That’s 65-million dollars out of all Mainers’ pockets to pay for insurance for just 14-thousand people.

Dirigo is the legacy program of Gov. John Baldacci. When the Democrats late at night without any public hearing or input passed the tax increases, the governor signed it into law almost immediately. Representative Hannah Pingree (D) said she was pleased that the legislature had continued the Dirigo program as it was setting the standard for universal health care for the nation. I think she may be right. It is the standard for failure, and the governor will be remembered for it.

I’m on the fence on the People’s Veto. I’ve jumped back and forth on both sides…do it to repeal a terrible tax and force the legislature to understand the people have had enough tax and spending on the one side, and it will be a waste of time and effort and the Republicans should spend their time campaigning for new legislators in November on the other. But as the arguments come more and more prevalent, I’m beginning to determine my final position.

Ninety days is a very short time to gather 60,000 or more signatures with the extra needed for those the Secretary of State will throw out. If the effort does not pass, it could open the door to more reckless, if the Democrats can get more reckless, spending in the next legislature. And because one Republican voted for the plan, the Democrats are claiming it was a bi-partisan effort.

On the other hand, success in getting the veto on the ballot might send a clear message to the Democrats that we cannot afford their tax and spend ways. If the signatures are gathered, it will give Republicans some impetus to spend much campaign time between July and November pointing out the recklessness of the Democrats and the pension they have for meeting late at night without notice or public involvement to have their way.

This tax is to fund Dirigo, which, incidentally, isn’t accepting any new applicants at this time and is thusly frozen at about 14-thousand enrollees. When it was first passed, we were told that within three years, more than 300-thousand people, many of whom did not have any health insurance at all, would be part of Dirigo and it would be self sustaining. Now more than three years later, only about 14 thousand are enrolled and an estimated upwards of 10 thousand of those already had their own private insurance.

And Dirigo is far from self sustaining, thus a tax on imaginary savings in health costs which did not meet the needs and now these new taxes. In my opinion Dirigo is going to be the defining failure of the Baldacci administration.

So, if I see one of the petitions, I will sign it and give it a chance for all voters to decide on a People’s Veto next November.


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