(Editor’s note: This article summarizes information available in the “Maine Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum Election.”)
On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7, Maine voters will decide whether to allow a casino and/or slot machines in York County, expand Medicaid, approve a bond for public infrastructure, and amend the state constitution to address an issue with pensions.
Question 1 reads as follows: “Do you want to allow a certain company to operate table games and/or slot machines in York County, subject to state and local approval, with part of the profits going to the specific programs described in the initiative?”
The question is the result of a citizen’s initiative. The “certain company” in the question is Shawn Scott’s Capital Seven LLC, of Nevada.
If voters approve the question, the municipality where the company wants to locate the facility would have to approve it as well.
The new law would require the facility to give the state 39 percent of the net income from slot machines and 16 percent of the net income from table games.
The facility would generate $26,176,905 in new revenue for the state each year, plus $5.25 million in one-time fees, according to an estimate by the Maine State Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review. The estimate assumes a 20 percent loss in revenue from Oxford Casino due to competition from the new facility.
Of the facility’s total net income from slot machines, 15 percent would go to three different horse-racing funds; 10 percent would go to the Maine Department of Education “to supplement and not supplant” funds for K-12 education; 3 percent to scholarship programs at the Maine Community College System, Maine Maritime Academy, and the University of Maine System; 3 percent to municipalities for property tax relief; and 1 percent each to drug education, the host municipality, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Aging and Disability, the General Fund to cover the administrative expenses of the Department of Public Safety’s Gambling Control Board, and the tribal governments of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and Penobscot Nation.
Of the revenue from table games, 9 percent would go to the Department of Education, 3 percent to the Gambling Control Board, and 2 percent each to the host municipality and veterans service organizations.
Question 2 reads as follows: “Do you want Maine to expand Medicaid to provide (health care) coverage for qualified adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138 (percent) of the federal poverty level, which in 2017 means $16,643 for a single person and $22,412 for a family of two?”
The question is the result of a citizen’s initiative.
If voters approve the question, the new law would expand Medicaid, or, as it’s known in Maine, MaineCare, to pay for health care costs for people at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line who do not currently qualify.
Under existing law, a person must be either blind, disabled, pregnant, a parent or caretaker relative of a dependent child or a child under 18, or 65 years of age or older in order to qualify for MaineCare. In addition to being a Maine resident and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, a person must have an income below a certain threshold depending on household size.
The new law would expand coverage to all who meet the residency and citizenship criteria, as well as parents and caretaker relatives with one or more dependent children who have family incomes from 101-138 percent of the federal poverty level; adults with disabilities who have incomes from 101-138 percent of the federal poverty level; and adults with family incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level who do not have dependent children.
The federal poverty level changes every year, with current standards at $16,642 for a single person, $22,412 for a family of two, $28,180 for a family of three, $33,948 for a family of four, and $57,022 for a family of eight.
If approved, the initiative is estimated to require annual appropriations from the state’s General Fund of $54,495,000 and federal costs of approximately $525 million, according to the Office of Fiscal Program and Review. As a result, additional legislation would need to be passed in the future for appropriations and allocations.
Question 3 reads as follows: “Do you favor a $105,000,000 bond issue for construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities or equipment related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian trails, to be used to match an estimated $137,000,000 in federal and other funds, and for the upgrade of municipal culverts at stream crossings?”
Question 3 comes from the Legislature, rather than from a citizen’s initiative. The Maine Constitution requires the Legislature to obtain voter approval for bonds of more than $2 million, with some exceptions.
Of the $105 million, $100 million would go to the Maine Department of Transportation. The DOT would spend $80 million on roads and bridges and $20 million on aviation, bicycle and pedestrian trails, harbors, public transportation, and railroads.
Another $5 million would go to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for use in a competitive grant program to upgrade or replace municipal culverts at stream crossings in order to improve fish and wildlife habitats, reduce flood hazards, and improve stormwater management.
According to the state treasurer, the bond will cost the state $28,875,000 in interest. The figure assumes a rate of 5 percent and a term of 10 years.
Question 4 reads as follows: “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to reduce volatility in state pension funding requirements caused by the financial markets by increasing the length of time over which experience losses are amortized from 10 years to 20 years, in line with industry standards?”
The proposal of a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.
According to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, the amendment would extend the maximum period of time over which net losses in the market value of the state-funded retirement plans administered by the Maine Public Employees Retirement System must be retired or funded.
The Maine Public Employees Retirement System is the pension system that provides retirement benefits to all state employees and public schoolteachers, as well as other public employees.
If there are net losses in the market value of the retirement system’s investments that would create an “unfunded liability,” for example, a situation in which the benefits that the system is obligated to pay would exceed the capacity of the fund, then those net losses or experience losses amortized over a specified period of time must be replenished by the state through General Fund appropriations or other means in the state budget.
Experience losses are currently amortized over a 10-year period under a constitutional amendment adopted by the state in 1995, when the retirement plan for state employees and public schoolteachers was funded by the state at a much lower rate than contemporary levels.
The change in the amortization period from 10 to 20 years is intended to smooth out the effects of volatility in the marketplace in a manner consistent with accepted actuarial practices.
According to the Office of Fiscal and Program Review, the amendment would lower the amount of funding needed to pay the required employer contributions in years one through 10 of any particular experience loss, but increase those payments in years 11-20. The amounts involved will depend on the frequency and magnitude of actual losses experienced.