MHPC releases suggested ballot language for Universal Home Care initiative


The following letter was sent to Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap from MHPC CEO Matthew Gagnon concerning the final language for the upcoming Universal Home Care ballot initiative:

Dear Secretary Dunlap,

Thank you for accepting public comment on the proposed wording of the Universal Home Care (UHC) ballot question Maine voters will consider this November.

On behalf of the Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC), I would like to recommend the following modifications to the proposed language for the UHC initiative.

As it stands currently, the ballot language reads:

“Do you want to create the Universal Home Care Program, which will provide services to people with disabilities and senior citizens who need daily assistance in their homes, funded by a new tax of 3.8% on individual income over $128,400?”

To begin, it is incorrect to suggest the tax threshold is permanently set at $128,400. In fact, it is adjusted each year by the Social Security Administration. Voters must not be misled into thinking that the threshold is a static figure.

It is also disingenuous to say this program would be funded by “a new tax of 3.8 percent on individual income over $128,400.” The 3.8 percent tax on wage earnings over the income threshold subject to Social Security employment tax is broken into two parts: a 1.9 percent tax to be paid by an employer on wages paid out over the threshold, and a 1.9 percent tax to be paid by an employee on wages earned over the threshold. It is important that this detail be communicated to Maine voters since self-employed individuals will be subject to both portions of the 3.8 percent tax on wage earnings, and individuals who work for a business must know the tax also affects their employer.

Additionally, as outlined in the language of the proposal, the home care services are being provided to anyone who qualifies under the program. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Secretary of State to explain to Maine voters via the ballot language that these services are being offered to qualified individuals regardless of their income. There is no means-testing, and the program makes no attempt to target services to the most needy.

MHPC believes a more accurate portrayal of what the initiative entails is as follows:

“Do you want to establish three new taxes on income earned over the threshold subject to social security employment tax ($128,400 in 2018); two taxes totaling 3.8 percent on employers and employees for wages earned and paid out over the threshold, and an additional 3.8 percent tax on all other forms of income earned over the threshold, for the purpose of funding the Universal Home Care program, which will provide services to people with disabilities and senior citizens who need assistance in their homes regardless of income?”

This formulation more accurately informs Maine voters what taxes are being collected and who they are being collected from in order to provide services under the Universal Home Care program.

Thank you again for allowing public comment before the final ballot language is determined. We hope you consider these modifications for the November ballot.

Matthew Gagnon
CEO, Maine Heritage Policy Center