PRESQUE ISLE – Mary Kreutzer believes in tax reform, just not the way the Taxpayer Bill of Rights would implement it.
She is from Lakewood, Colo., and serves as a volunteer legislative advocate for AARP Colorado. On Tuesday, she was the guest speaker at a briefing in Presque Isle sponsored by AARP Maine, which opposes the measure on Maine’s Nov. 7 ballot.
About 200 AARP members attended the meeting, which offered the “nuts and bolts” of how TABOR would work, and she outlined the reasons why AARP opposes the proposal.
The ballot question on TABOR will ask if voters want to limit increases in state and local government spending and require voter approval for all tax and fee increases.
Modeled on a Colorado initiative, TABOR in Maine would limit the growth of spending at the state and local levels to the annual rate of inflation and population growth. It would require voter approval for any tax or fee increases. Towns could exceed the limits if two-thirds of the voters agree.
Supporters of the proposal maintain that TABOR allows for reasonable growth of government at all levels while creating a stable tax and regulatory climate. Opponents say the measure will hurt local school districts and hamper municipal efforts to provide services and sustain infrastructure.
Kreutzer, formerly an economic developer in Colorado, called TABOR in her state a “noxious weed” and said she made the trip to speak in Maine because she was greatly concerned with the proposed legislation.
“I did see what happened to Colorado and I have concern for other people. The experience of what I saw happen just broke my heart,” Kreutzer said.
She cited changes that resulted in declining teacher salaries, rising tuition rates for higher education, lack of funding for highway improvements and decreased availability for health care offerings such as vaccinations.
Colorado is taking a five-year “time out” from its 1992 TABOR law, but Kreutzer said that what the state really needs is to repeal the measure.
“When you’re that far down, to recuperate takes years and years,” she said. “We feel like we’re treading water. We’re not making a lot of progress, but it’s much better than sinking.”
AARP Maine State Director Jud Dolphin said Tuesday that officials hosted the meeting to explain why AARP opposes TABOR.
“Our members want to stay independent in their own homes as long as possible,” Dolphin said. “TABOR is a real threat to that.”
While voters on both sides of the issue turned out for the event, a lot of people attended so they could make an informed choice at the polls.
That’s why Joseph Saucier and Mavis Schoel of Caribou made the trip.
“First of all, I don’t understand T-A-B-O-R,” Saucier said Tuesday as Schoel nodded her head in agreement.
“We’ve got to vote on something we don’t understand,” he said. “We just want to understand.”