PORTLAND – Opponents of a government spending cap referendum rolled out a new TV ad on Friday featuring footage of Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, who is also appearing in an ad for supporters of the initiative.
The ad shows footage of Owens praising Maine’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights proposal and separate footage of him telling voters in Colorado last year that TABOR has brought economic troubles to that state.
Dennis Bailey, spokesman for the Citizens United anti-TABOR group, accused Owens of “political doublespeak.” Colorado has its own version of TABOR that was passed in 1992; voters last November agreed to suspend parts of the constitutional amendment for five years.
Owens’ spokesman Dan Hopkins said Friday the governor has always supported TABOR and continues to do so. He said Colorado’s measure allows voters to approve changes.
“There is no duplicity here at all,” Hopkins said. “TABOR allows changes like Referendum C,” the voter-approved measure that suspended the provisions.
In the new anti-TABOR ad, Owens is shown telling Coloradans that the state was in trouble and facing a fiscal crisis because a “glitch” in TABOR had slowed the state’s economic recovery from a recession earlier this decade.
In the pro-TABOR ad in Maine, Owens tells Maine viewers that TABOR has worked in Colorado and that he has “no doubt” it will work in Maine as well.
“The political duplicity and hypocrisy is outrageous. Governor Owens must think Maine people are stupid,” Bailey said.
Roy Lenardson, spokesman for the Taxpayer Bill of Rights campaign in Maine, said Colorado’s TABOR was designed so voters could suspend it if they wanted. Owens, he said, is bullish on the measure because it forced him to ask voters if they wanted to forgo tax refunds for five years so he could implement a new spending plan.
Asking Colorado voters to suspend TABOR is “not only not hypocritical, but it strengthens his position,” Lenardson said.
“That was Governor Owens’ point. He had to come up with a plan and ask the voters,” Lenardson said.
The Nov. 7 referendum asks Mainers if they want to limit government spending at all levels to the rate of inflation plus population growth, with voter approval required for all tax and fee increases.