Counting Your Chickens Before They Hatch

WASHINGTON — Maine voters will be asked to approve yet another spending spree on November 5th, this time it will provide carte blanche for the Maine Department of Transportation.

Maine’s budget shortfall for FY02 totaled $151 million (or 5.8% of the budget). The projected FY03 budget shortfall for the Pine Tree State is $243 million (or 9%). Why would voters want to approve additional spending when the state is already in a fiscal crisis? As of June 30, 2002, the state must pay $102 million in outstanding debt from transportation bonds by the end of the current fiscal year. While the government continued its spending spree, the per capita income of state residents decreased by 22% from 1999 to 2000 while the per capita federal and state tax burden increased by 2.5% during the same time period. Furthermore, residents of the Pine State already carry the highest state and local tax burden in the country. “Why the Maine government continues its borrow-and-spend binge is beyond me,” commented Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), “It’s like setting a child loose in a candy store to eat all he wants – even if he gets sick, he will continue to gorge himself.”

Formal opponent groups have not been organized to fight this proposal because the issue has not been publicized. The Department of Transportation has reduced public knowledge of this measure by distributing a letter and fact sheet only to news organizations, lawmakers, chambers of commerce and special-interest groups – not to voters. “The legislature and Department of Transportation want to keep voters in the dark on Question 3,” continued Norquist, “Voters will be blindsided at the polls by thinking it is just another bond question – not the newest spending spree that it truly is.” Americans for Tax Reform urges voters to vote “no” on Question 3. The supposed “savings” projected by the Department of Transportation and the Legislature will only be replaced by interest payments on loans. Voters must maintain their power over government borrowing.

“Borrowing against projected future federal spending is a fatal accounting move,” insists Norquist, “If the federal government decided tomorrow to cut transportation funding by fifty percent, Maine’s taxpayers will be responsible to foot the bill for a project they didn’t approve.”

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