News Feature

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Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 18, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, October 18, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, October 18, 2018
Election 2018: Referendum Questions
Five ballot questions cover education, infrastructure and in-home care

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by Faith DeAmbrose

As voters participate in Election Day, November 6, they will see a number of questions included on the ballot. From a Citizens’ Initiative that seeks to tax wealthier Mainers to fund an in-home care program to four bond issues to fund improvements to education and infrastructure, the funding for the bond questions totals $200,000,000, while Question 1 is expected to cost roughly $300,000,000 and be fully paid through taxation. In particular, Question 3, if approved, would provide $1,000,000 for Maine Maritime Academy to fund improvements to its waterfront facility in Castine.

Question 1: Citizen Initiative

Do you want to create the Universal Home Care Program to provide home-based assistance to people with disabilities and senior citizens, regardless of income, funded by a new 3.8% tax on individuals and families with Maine wage and adjusted gross income above the amount subject to Social Security taxes, which is $128,400 in 2018?

This question, and its accompanying legislation, aims to establish a non-lapsing Universal Home Care Program to provide in-home and community support services to disabled Mainers and those 65 years or older regardless of income.

It will do so by creating a fund and a board of directors that will “design and deliver to the extent that funds are available a home program that funds both formal care and informal family care and shall use the funds to provide access to in-home and community support services for eligible persons by December 21, 2021.” The legislation also calls for creating a system by which funds may be used to provide a stipend to a family caregiver.

The program will be funded by imposing a new tax of 3.8% “on income and wages that exceed the maximum wages subject to Social Security employment taxes.”

For those in the workforce, the program will be funded through a payroll tax increase of 1.9% from employees and employers on salaries and wages over the threshold. For non-wage income, such as dividends from stocks and bonds, the tax is 3.8% on income over that threshold.

This tax is expected to generate $310,000,000 annually for the program, according to the bill’s Fiscal Impact Statement prepared by the Office of Fiscal and Program Review.

Question 2: Bond Issue

Do you favor a $30,000,000 bond issue to improve water quality, support the planning and construction of wastewater treatment facilities and assist homeowners whose homes are served by substandard or malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems?

Provides funds for grants to towns to help replace malfunctioning septic systems that are polluting coastal watersheds or causing a public nuisance.

Total $2,000,000

Provides funds for wastewater treatment facility planning, construction grants and hydrographic modeling in coastal watersheds, prioritizing areas with high-value shellfish resources.

Total $27,650,000

Provides funds to assist homeowners whose homes are served by substandard or malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems, including straight pipe discharges, individual overboard discharge systems, subsurface wastewater disposal systems, septic tanks, leach fields and cesspools, which result in direct discharges of domestic pollutants to coastal watersheds.

Total $350,000

Question 3: Bond Issue

Do you favor a $106,000,000 bond issue, including $101,000,000 for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities and equipment related to ports, piers, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails, to be used to match an estimated $137,000,000 in federal and other funds, and $5,000,000 for the upgrade of municipal culverts at stream crossings?

In this question $1 million is earmarked for Maine Maritime Academy in Castine for “remediation of and improvements to its waterfront pier.”

According to officials at MMA, “the funding Maine Maritime Academy would receive would be used for necessary improvements and remediation to the Academy’s waterfront pier in Castine that secures the 500-foot training ship, State of Maine. Specifically, funding would cover the cost of engineering and construction of a mooring pier, commonly referred to as a “mooring dolphin,” a structure consisting of concrete pilings supporting a super-structure of concrete and steel.”

Such a structure was intended to be constructed at the wharf when the waterfront facility was developed, said officials, but “construction costs at the time caused this component of the project to be eliminated.”

“Securing the State of Maine in a safe manner has since required the use of an extensive cabling system that blocks safe access to the harbor basin, reducing the overall functionality of the waterfront. Currently, mooring lines must be stretched 300 feet across the harbor. This restricts safe navigation within an important portion of the boat basin and prevents the use of this area for valuable training purposes,” according to MMA.

This question also:

Provides funds to construct or reconstruct Priority 1, Priority 2 and Priority 3 corridors under the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 23, section 73, subsection 7 and associated improvements, for the department’s municipal partnership initiative and to replace and rehabilitate bridges.

Total $80,000,000

Provides funds for facilities and equipment related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, aviation, freight and passenger railroads, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails that preserve public safety or otherwise have demonstrated high economic value, including property acquisition.

Total $20,000,000

Provides funds for a competitive grant program that matches local funding for the upgrade of municipal culverts at stream crossings in order to improve fish and wildlife habitats and increase community safety. Eligible project sponsors include local governments, municipal conservation commissions, soil and water conservation districts and private nonprofit organizations.

Total $5,000,000

Question 4: Bond Issue

Do you favor a $49,000,000 bond issue to be matched by at least $49,000,000 in private and public funds to modernize and improve the facilities and infrastructure of Maine’s public universities in order to expand workforce development capacity and to attract and retain students to strengthen Maine’s economy and future workforce?

Provides funds for the construction, reconstruction and remodeling of existing or new facilities and other infrastructure within the University of Maine System as approved by the Board of Trustees in order to expand workforce development capacity and attract and retain students. Bond funds must be matched by other public and private funds.

Total $49,000,000

According to the Intent and Content “The purpose of the bond funding is to expand the University of Maine System’s capacity to develop Maine’s workforce and enhance its ability to attract and retain students. The projects currently approved by the Board of Trustees are located at all seven campuses in the University of Maine System and include renovations and improvements to dormitories, modernization and expansion of laboratories and classrooms for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs, nursing and child care programs, as well as development of career service centers, and other facilities to support first-generation and non-traditional students. The bond proceeds would have to be matched by an equal amount of funding from other private and public sources.”

*Total estimated lifetime cost is $62,475,000 representing $49,000,000 in principal and $13,475,000 in interest (assuming interest at 5.0% over 10 years).

Question 5: Bond Issue

Do you favor a $15,000,000 bond issue to improve educational programs by upgrading facilities at all 7 of Maine’s community colleges in order to provide Maine people with access to high-skill, low-cost technical and career education?

Provides funds to renovate and expand instructional laboratories and to upgrade information technology infrastructure and heating and ventilating systems for improved energy efficiency and long-term savings at Central Maine Community College.

Total $2,503,755

Provides funds for information technology system upgrades, to convert heating systems to natural gas and for additional campus-wide energy efficiencies at Eastern Maine Community College.

Total $2,233,082

Provides funds for capital equipment to support a new program in millwrighting and industrial mechanics, for upgrades to information technology infrastructure and instructional and library technologies and to replace and insulate aging windows and facades at Kennebec Valley Community College.

Total $2,190,731

Provides funds to expand the diesel hydraulics program laboratory, upgrade information technology infrastructure and heating and ventilation systems, invest in energy efficiencies and renovate classrooms at Northern Maine Community College.

Total $1,165,119

Provides funds for facility repairs and improvements, energy efficiencies, renovations to expand space for student support and remediation, information technology system upgrades and instructional and library services at Southern Maine Community College.

Total $4,275,100

Provides funds to renovate and expand instructional laboratories, for information technology system upgrades and for investments in instructional technologies at Washington County Community College.

Total $885,853

Provides funds for information technology system upgrades to and the development of York County Community College’s Industrial Trades Center in Sanford.

Total

$1,746,360

This article was edited to fix a typographical error.