Maine Health Funding Initiative Crashes in Defeat

November 5, 2008 ( - Also on Tuesday's presidential election ballot, Maine voters resoundingly rescinded the state's recently imposed tax on soda, beer, and wine that was designed to help expand Maine's DirigoChoice health insurance programs.

A Bangor Daily News report said with 87% of the votes counted, the move to overturn the tax generated 389,479 or 63.9% of the vote while supporters could only muster 220,193 or 36.1%.

According to the Daily News , the DirigoChoice programs are funded by the unpredictable and unpopular Savings Offset Program, which taxes health insurers based on the state’s estimated cost savings from the insurance programs.

Under the now-defeated initiative, the Savings Offset Program would have been replaced by a 1.8% surcharge on health insurance claims and the excise beverage tax. The state estimated that together, the surcharge and the excise tax would raise $50 million in the 2009 fiscal year and would replace the controversial funding.

Supporters were jubilant Tuesday night. “When we started this effort seven months ago, we were confident that if Maine people had a voice on these new taxes they would reject them. And clearly, based on the numbers here tonight, they have done so,” said Newell Augur, spokesman for political action group Fed Up With Taxes, according to the Daily News .

Meanwhile, Gordon Smith, a spokesman for the defeated No on One campaign, said that he was disappointed in the result but that it was nonetheless a night to be optimistic. “We’re very proud of the campaign which we waged with limited resources against a very well-heeled group. We’re proud of every vote we got,” he said, the Daily News reported.

One political expert told the newspaper that Fed Up With Taxes’ had superior funding and marketing. The political action group raised more than $1.5 million between July and September of 2008. In comparison, the opposition raised just $42,000 in the same time period.

“They were louder,” said Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, of the Yes on One effort. “Louder doesn’t always win. It all depends on which side is more successful at getting the public to look at the question through their frame of reference.”