AUGUSTA – While many delegates at the annual meeting of the Maine Municipal Association were sporting anti-TABOR stickers at the Augusta Civic Center, across the parking lot at a hotel, some of their own were critical of the opposition of MMA to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
“MMA should be ashamed of itself,” Waterville Mayor Paul LePage told a pro-TABOR rally. “They are using our tax dollars to sustain the tax-and-spend mentality that we have had for 30 years.”
He said there would be no need for the spending limits in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights if MMA used the funds it is expending on opposing the citizen initiative to help cities and towns be more efficient in the delivery of services.
MMA President Nick Mavodones, a Portland city councilor, said MMA decided to oppose TABOR after its legislative policy council heard arguments on both sides of the issue. He said once the organization decided to oppose the ballot question, it did what it has done before and advocated strongly for what it believes is best for municipalities.
“We are celebrating the 70th year of the Maine Municipal Association,” he said. “It was formed to advocate on behalf of municipalities, and that’s what we are doing.”
Mavodones said there is no doubt that TABOR would hurt cities and towns and mean cuts in local programs. He said those municipal officials who support TABOR had their opportunity to argue their case, and they lost.
“Why are they afraid of the voters?” asked Lewiston City Councilor Stavros Mendros at the pro-TABOR rally. “I trust the voters. Those elected officials that are opposed to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, that are opposed to letting the voters have the final say, what are they hiding, what are they afraid of?”
Mavodones said there are independent studies that show the TABOR will result in actual budget cuts.
“It will cut [town] budgets,” he said. “There will be negative budgets if this passes and people have to understand what this will do to important services.”
The battle of dueling studies continued Wednesday with opponents and supporters releasing separate studies on TABOR. The studies draw very different conclusions.
Voters decide the issue on Nov. 7.