Question 2 tackles income-based tax to fund public schools

Funding options from Question 2 on ballots.


Opponents and supporters of Question 2 on the November ballot both spoke on the issue Thursday in Portland and in Brewer.

The question asks voters if Mainers who earn more than $200,000 in taxable income should pay a three percent tax to fund Maine's public schools for grades kindergarten through 12.

The ballot reads that the tax revenue would only be used for "direct support for student learning," which includes salary and benefit costs for a variety of teachers, but does not cover administrative costs. There was no clear language in the ballot that excluded technology or infrastructure upgrades.

Maine business owners, former educators, and state chamber of commerce representatives opposed the measure.

"It would be detrimental to our state's economy," said Dana Connors, the president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. 

Connors said the tax would unfairly burden small business owners.

"That puts a hardship on them -- in fact, they represent two-thirds of those that would be affected by this new tax," said Connors.

Jake Stoddard, former vice chair of the MSAD 6 School Board agreed, adding that it would drive away people hoping to start a business in Maine.

"Those individuals are going to choose to leave the state," said Stoddard. "We want to see improved educational outcomes, and the question then, is that only revenue?"

Supporters said the question is about tax fairness.

"All public schools across the state are being shortchanged," said John Kosinski, the "Yes on 2" campaign manager. "This is about tax fairness to make sure the wealthy are paying their fair share, but also making sure that we fund our schools appropriately so that we're building the best public education system that we can."

Kosinski claimed special education costs across the state were not being met.

"Right now there's a law on the books for example that says the state should pay 100 percent of the special education costs across the state. That's not happening," said Kosinski.

Opponents also claimed it would create an unfair distribution of those collected funds.

Districts would have to provide a yearly report on how the money was spent.

Both sides agreed that schools need funding, but differed on how to provide it.

"It is the wrong solution to a pressing problem," said Connors. "[It's] not an easy challenge, but an important one."

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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