Groups seeking a recount of Question 2, which puts a 3 percent surtax on incomes over $200,000 to create a fund for public schools, have withdrawn their request. Opponents of the measure say they now believe it passed by a valid margin.
A coalition of business groups filed for the recount after unofficial tallies indicated a very close margin. The groups had opposed the ballot question, saying it would make it harder to recruit highly paid professionals to Maine.
David Clough, the Maine director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, says unofficial vote tallies provided by the secretary of state’s office show that the winning margin has grown to 9,536 votes — more than 1 percent.
“We found that the margin had grown so much it was going to be extremely difficult to overturn the result,” he says. “It was going to be very expensive in regard to professional resources to manage the recount process.”
Clough says his coalition would have had to have ballot counters and lawyers present for as long as six weeks to complete the process. And he says the group was upset with the secretary of state for deciding to recount the recreational marijuana question at the same time as the tax increase question.
“We were very concerned and objected to the recount process that had been proposed by the Secretary of State’s office and would have put us in a very awkward and untenable situation,” he says.
In a letter sent to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s office, the group questioned the legal authority to hold the two recounts at the same time. Dunlap says there’s no issue.
“There assertion that I lack authority is groundless on its face. The secretary of state is charged with conducting all county, state and federal elections in the state of Maine and with conducting all recounts,” he says.
Clough says the coalition considered a legal challenge, but decided against it as it would have delayed the recount and increased its costs.
Supporters of Question 2 were pleased with the opponents’ decision to withdraw the recount request. In a written statement, campaign manager John Kosinski says Mainers had made a clear decision to raise taxes to fund state schools.
But the issue is far from over. Gov. Paul LePage says he will propose lowering the top regular income tax rate so the surtax has less of an effect. And Clough says those in the No on Question 2 coalition will also push for legislation to mitigate the effect of the referendum when lawmakers meet in January.