AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — One week after the election, it's looking more likely that two of those controversial referendum questions will be headed for recounts.
Opponents of legalizing marijuana are gathering petition signatures to force a recount, and now opponents of Question 2 say they're doing the same thing.
Both questions passed by extremely close votes.
Normally, we would say 6,000 votes is a big margin. Question 2 passed by more than that. But there were more than 750,000 votes cast.
That translates to a margin of 1 percent or less, so it's apparently headed to recount, and that recount could cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.
David Clough, Maine state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), is leading the recount petition.
"We don't enter with false expectations it will be easy to change," said David Clough, Maine state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB). "But we think, again, mistakes can be made because humans count. We'll see what the final vote is."
The vote tally from last week was very close. Even in a year when conservatives did well, the plan to raise taxes on people earning more than $200,000 passed statewide.
Clough claims that higher tax will hurt many small businesses, so he's trying what he can to block it.
"This will actually tax small business owners more than it taxes a company like Walmart," he said. "The corporate tax rate is less. We don't need to be raising taxes on small business owner, we need to help them create jobs."
John Kosinski, a government relations specialist for the Maine Education Association, a supporter of Question 2, said voters have spoken loud and clear. "The voters said they want the state to better fund the schools and want the wealthy to pay their fair share."
He said Maine schools need those extra dollars, and that supporters of Question 2 will do all they can to protect the victory. And he, again, brushed off the complaints about the potential impact of the tax.
"The opposition to Question 2 made that clear throughout the campaign," he said. "Voters overwhelmingly, by an 8,000[-vote] majority, said 'we want to better fund out schools.'"
Recounts are typically done in candidate races. The Maine secretary of state's office has said a statewide referendum recount would cost around $500,000, but NEWS CENTER was told today that if both questions go to recount, they will likely be counted at the same time to save money and speed things up. Both sides said they're OK with that.
The recounts may not end the issue, either. Governor LePage has indicated he may be proposing another income tax cut when the Legislature starts work this winter.
Exactly how that would affect the new tax increase for higher incomes is still unclear, but it would certainly cause intense debate in the Legislature.
The Yes on 1 campaign says it will fight any effort to change the referendum law as passed by voters. If it survives a recount, the law would take effect in January.
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