March 18, 2010

Repeal proposal on school mergers misses 2008 vote

— The Associated Press

AUGUSTA — Supporters of a citizen initiative to repeal Maine's school consolidation law will have to wait until next year to try to send their proposal to voters.

The Secretary of State's Office said Tuesday that the campaign to remove the consolidation law from the books informed election officials last week that it would not have the 55,087 signatures needed by Monday to put the question to a vote this year.

The campaign remains active and plans to collect at least 60,000 signatures in hopes of forcing a vote next year, said Don Cookson of the Secretary of State's Office.

At issue is a law passed in June that requires school districts to have at least 2,500 students, with exceptions allowed in some cases.

Two other proposals missed chances to appear on the 2008 ballot when Monday's deadline passed.

One was the so-called TABOR II, after the Taxpayer Bill of Rights spending cap proposal that voters rejected in 2006.

The proposal would limit state spending to the rate of inflation plus population growth over a three-year average. It would also limit municipal and county spending to the increase in personal income growth, capped at 2.7 percent, plus the growth of new property on the tax rolls. The legislation does not address school spending.

The other proposal would cut the excise tax on cars and trucks in Maine and give the owners of hybrid vehicles an additional tax break. Advocates say the proposal would reduce taxes while promoting energy conservation. Campaign spokesman Roy Lenardson said the excise tax group has planned all along to send its question to voters in 2009.

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