Yep, you have to answer a lot of questions in the voting booth this year. Here's what they're about, and how we think you should vote on them.
Yes on State Question 1 — Casino in Oxford County
WHAT IT IS Black Bear Entertainment has brought the fourth casino proposal to Maine voters in seven years, and the second to propose a site in Oxford County. Proponents say it will create jobs and support education funding — the state estimates that $15 million would be generated to help fund K-12 education statewide, $2 million for UMaine scholarships, and $1.6 million for Maine community college scholarships.
WHAT WE SAY In 2003, 2007, and 2008 we opposed the casino referenda not on principle, but on the grounds that those proposals were bad deals for Maine. This year, we support the casino question because this proposal is a better deal: It is a chance for badly needed investment and state revenue, an opportunity to create jobs in an area of the state that has had trouble attracting employers, and a chance to attract even more people from out-of-state to come to Maine and leave some of their wealth behind for us to use to improve our schools and institutions of higher learning.
VOTE YES. We should note that we support the casino cautiously, as our reporting has revealed questionable accounting activities in state administration of the revenue from Hollywood Slots. State officials — and the public — should remain vigilant about tracking the large amounts of cash involved in casino operations.
Yes on State Question 2 — $5 million dental-care bond
WHAT IT IS This would borrow $5 million to improve access to dental care in Maine. Of that, $3.5 million would be used to fund a community-based teaching dental clinic as part of a dental college, to be matched by $3.5 million in other, non-taxpayer, funds. The remaining $1.5 million would go to create or improve dental clinics around the state.
WHAT WE SAY Maine is in a dental-care crisis, with state health officials saying every single county suffers from a shortage of dental-health professionals. While borrowing money in a recession raises concerns about ability to repay the debt, this is a public-health problem for which public dollars are well spent, particularly when matched with other funds, and with a statewide plan.
Yes on State Question 3 — $9.75 million conservation bond
WHAT IT IS This would spend $6.5 million to buy land for conservation, $1 million to protect working farmland, $1.75 million to preserve working waterfront, and $500,000 to support the operations of state parks. These borrowed funds would be matched by $9.25 million in federal and private funds.
WHAT WE SAY Conserving more of Maine is a good idea, and previous conservation bonds have been used well and wisely to protect key forested parcels like Robinson Woods in Cape Elizabeth, and fresh- and salt-water beaches and other beautiful places throughout the state. Borrowing in a recession does raise concerns about payback, but this bond effectively cuts the price of conservation work in half, at least for as long as this money lasts.
Yes on County Question 4 — New county charter