April 08, 2020

Bangor councilors oppose TABOR measure

BANGOR – The city on Wednesday joined a growing list of Maine communities that are not supporting the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a citizen-initiated referendum question on the Nov. 7 ballot.

During a regular meeting on Wednesday night at City Hall, city councilors voted 7-0 to adopt a resolve expressing Bangor’s opposition to TABOR, which seeks to limit growth in government spending at the state, municipal and school district levels to increases in inflation and population growth.

“As the premier service center in northern and eastern Maine, the city of Bangor supports an infrastructure essential for the future of our region and its economy, and TABOR would weaken the ability of the city to meet our community’s needs,” councilors noted in their resolve.

“Over time, TABOR will result in a reduction in the governmental and educational services which our residents have long supported and come to expect,” the resolve stated.

During a workshop last month, city officials noted that if their resolve were to have any impact on voting in next month’s general elections it would have to be adopted by no later than this week.

That’s because the city’s absentee, or early, voting program opens at 8 a.m. Monday at the Bangor Civic Center.

TABOR aims to limit increases in state and local government spending. Its formula uses the U.S. rate of inflation plus an area’s change in population or school enrollment to calculate the allowed increase.

Bangor officials said that overriding the limits – which requires a two-thirds vote of a governing body, in Bangor’s case the City Council, as well as a majority of voters – would be time-consuming and costly.

In their resolve, the councilors noted that if TABOR had been in effect during this fiscal year, the city would have had to cut its general fund expenditures by $1.2 million and education spending by $635,000.

A problem for large cities such as Bangor, City Manager Edward Barrett noted earlier, is that the spending limits would apply not only to all normal government functions but also to such self-supporting city enterprise programs as Bangor International Airport, the economic development fund, the golf course and the sewer fund.

That, he noted, could limit the revenues the city could receive for these programs.

TABOR also could adversely affect Bangor’s bond rating by reducing the city’s financial flexibility, resulting in higher interest rates on needed investments in the city’s infrastructure, they said.

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