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Governor’s Address: What’s Next for the Referendum Questions

We have a lot of work to do in the upcoming Legislative session. If we are going to make progress, there must be a willingness to work together.

Dear Maine Taxpayer,

One of the first tasks the Legislature must deal with involves the citizen’s referendums. Citizen initiatives certainly have a place in a democracy, but I strongly believe the process needs better checks and balances.

Several of the ballot questions put out to voters have serious, unintended consequences for the people of Maine. Some questions are clearly unconstitutional, one will chase successful people out of Maine and another will drive the elderly deeper into poverty.

Legalizing marijuana goes against federal law, and the question was so poorly drafted it will require millions of dollars and several legislative fixes before it can be implemented.

The Legislature needs to determine how to best implement these initiatives so they respect the will of the people, but don’t harm our elderly or destroy Maine’s economy. Furthermore, we may have to endure lengthy recounts in the weeks ahead on some of the referendum questions.

I will be submitting a bill to create checks and balances on the citizen’s referendum process. Right now, to get a referendum question on the ballot, about 61-thousand signatures are required. The Maine Constitution states that 10 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the most recent election must be collected.

The problem is that all the signatures can come easily from one part of the state—and it’s usually Portland and Southern Maine.

I will offer a resolution proposing an amendment to the Maine Constitution that would require signatures to be gathered proportionately from each county in Maine. Our state is large and diverse, and we should have fair representation across our state. Residents in Southern Maine should not be able to control the citizen initiative process.

The biennial budget is a massive piece of legislation that our staff and administration have been working on for months. In it, there will be measures to reduce taxes, lower energy costs, help students reduce their debt burden and bring more accountability to government.

We won’t agree on everything, but we should always put Mainers first. If the citizens disagree with the decisions made in Augusta, they have the right to speak at the ballot box. However, we must make sure out-of-state money pouring into one part of the state does not control our desired way of life. Citizens from every part of Maine should have a fair and equal voice in a process that could have a serious impact on their way of life.

Thank You,

Paul R. LePage

Governor

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