Maine’s Ballot Initiatives

The following six questions will appear on Maine’s ballots this fall:

Question 1 Marijuana Legalizes, regulates, and taxes marijuana as an agricultural product
Question 2 Education Establishes a 3 percent tax on household income over $200,000
Question 3 Firearms Requires specific background checks for gun sales and transfers
Question 4 Minimum Wage Increases minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020
Question 5 Elections Establishes statewide ranked-choice voting
Question 6 Bonds Issues $100 million in bonds for transportation projects

Here’s how I stand at the moment, and why. Opinion subject to change based on additional data.

Question 1: Marijuana: Legalizes, regulates, and taxes marijuana as an agricultural product
Prospective vote: Yes
Reasoning: The war on drugs has clearly failed. While I believe that human beings would be generally better off if they used no mood-altering substances, the social costs of legalization vs. prohibition and enforcement of marijuana specifically must be weighed. FBI data shows that of the roughly 700,000 arrests for marijuana-related charges in 2014, about 90 percent were for possession only, and while an arrest does not always lead to jail time, these arrests can have radiating consequences. Alcohol leads to far more societal costs in terms of violence, abuse, and other anti-social behaviors, and we saw how well the Eighteenth Amendment worked. What is needed is legalization and control in the same way alcohol is legal and controlled, taking revenue out of the hands of the cartels and crime syndicates. This would also clear the way for the legalization of industrial hemp, an astonishingly useful product which has vanishingly small quantities of THC (less than the amount of alcohol in NA beers, for example) but which has been lumped together with cannabis by government regulators out of fear and/or ignorance.

Question 2: Education: Establishes a 3 percent tax on household income over $200,000
Prospective vote: Yes
Reasoning: 1) Funding education is good. Schools are generally underfunded and teachers generally underpaid. This initiative would require a 3% surcharge on portions of income over $200,000, meaning if you earned $280,000 in a given year, you’d see your taxes go up by $2,400. If I had an income like that, I’d gladly pay double that as a surcharge and think I was getting off easy. 2) Anything Paul LePage opposes is most likely a good idea.

Question 3: Firearms: Requires specific background checks for gun sales and transfers
Prospective vote: Yes
Reasoning: This is a hot-button issue in Maine, where concealed carry doesn’t even require a permit. Lots of “yee-haw ‘Murica” sentiment up here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fervent 2nd Amendment supporter, and I won’t support any effort by any candidate to “come get your guns.” But I’m also a fervent supporter of common sense. The right to drive a car isn’t enshrined in the Constitution, but in order to drive a car, the following things have to happen:

  1. Driver must be of age, have operator training and be licensed
  2. Vehicle needs to be registered, inspected, taxed, and insured. Every vehicle, every year.

Once these requirements are met, you can own as many vehicles as you want. Why firearms should be exempt from the same type of safety-oriented requirements simply makes no sense.

Question 4: Minimum Wage: Increases minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020
Prospective vote: Yes
Reasoning: I support this because we probably won’t get anything better through legislation in the near future, but I feel that it doesn’t go far enough. $15.00 would be better. And it’s being phased in too slowly. To have a minimum wage that people can’t live on is unconscionable, particularly when so many families are trying to get by on two wage-earners at this level.

Question 5: Elections: Establishes statewide ranked-choice voting
Prospective vote: Yes
Reasoning: From the League of Women Voters:

  • RCV allows voters to vote for their favorite candidate without fear of helping elect their least favorite candidate. It minimizes strategic voting and eliminates the spoiler effect.
  • RCV is most likely to elect a candidate with broad appeal. It ensures that winners enjoy majority support when matched against their top opponents.
  • RCV encourages candidates to run with new ideas and dissenting opinions.
  • It promotes civility in campaigns and encourages winning candidates to reach out to more people, reducing negative attacks.
  • Unlike traditional runoff elections, it accomplishes these goals in a single election. Traditional run-offs require candidates to raise much more money and are much prone to negative attacks ads.

Question 6: Bonds: Issues $100 million in bonds for transportation projects
Prospective vote: Undecided
Reasoning: Economic issues are complex. Clearly America’s transportation infrastructure is crumbling, and woefully underfunded. Maine’s roads are in poor shape, in part because of harsh winter weather. The bond has a lot of support; Mark W. Anderson, an economist and a writer for the Bangor Daily News, calls for an increase in fuel tax to more fairly distribute cost to heavy users of roads. I need to think about this one some more, and it’s not easy for a Wolf of Very Little Brain to get his head around things like this.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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