STATEWIDE – In two weeks, Mainers will head to the polls. Not only will a new governor be elected but voters could set new health care policy as well if Question 1 on the referendum ballot is passed.
Here is a look at both sides of Question 1, which is what is known as a citizen’s initiated ballot question.
If enough voters say yes, a statewide universal home care program will be created. It would provide assistance to people with disabilities and senior citizens, regardless of income.
And it would be funded by a new 3.8 percent tax on individual and family income greater than $128,400. That’s according to the secretary of state’s voter guide.
However, there is disagreement about who would be taxed to pay for this.
“The nursing home lobby has been trying to spread some confusion about that. So I think it’s very important that we make that clear. It’s on personal income over $128,400 a year. It’s about the wealthiest two percent in Maine,” Mike Tipping, communications director for Mainers for Home Care, said.
Howver, opponents of the measure say it will derail economic development.
“So with this new rate, I’m going to be taking 50 percent of what i make and instead of putting it back into the business, I have to pay it in taxes. And that doesn’t make any sense to me,” said David Plowman, owner of PDQ Garage Door Co.
Advocates for the proposal say families are bearing a financial burden as they try to care for loved ones and often find themselves staring into the jaws of bankruptcy.
War veteran Joe Swoboda was one of the fortunate ones. His wife has been able to care for him.
“That’s just terrible, man, for a senior person having to leave their home because they can’t afford for a nurse to come in and take care of them,” Swoboda said.
The Home Care and Hospice Alliance of Maine has declared its opposition to Question 1.
“The law, if it were to be passed, would require the Department of Health and Human Services release the name, the address, the email information, identifying information of patients receiving home care,” Lisa Harvey, an alliance spokeswoman, said.
Among the groups supporting passage of universal home care is the Maine Small Business Coalition.
“So it’s important that people speak out on these issues, that they make it absolutely clear that they want seniors to be able to stay in their homes,” Tipping said.
The lack of a qualifying income threshold also concerns opponents.
“Everybody gets the money from this program whether a millionaire or somebody eking by on Social Security and that doesn’t make any sense to me,” Plowman said.
All four gubernatorial candidates oppose this referendum question. That could mean even if it is passed, it could face a hurdle getting through the Maine Legislature.
Opponents have said it is likely to face a court challenge if it does get voter approval.