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“No On Tabor” Sounds Off At Statewide Press Conferences 

Mainers will decide the matter in November, it’s Qestion 4 on the ballot. A group opposing the Tabor 2 initiative held three seperate press conferences today to voice their concerns. The events were in Portland, Lewiston, and one here in Bangor.Firefighters and police officers sounded off on Tabor 2. Ronnie Green is a 19-year veteran of the Bangor Fire Department. “When we, the professional firefighters of Maine, heard about this thing called Tabor, we contacted our brothers and sisters in Colorado to find out what it really meant to them,” he says, “what we learned from them is that in a short period of time trucks and ambulances were breaking down with no money allocated to fix them.” He says the firefighters he talked to in Colorado also told him, because of the lack of funding, the equipment wasn’t immediately fixed. “Equipment would sit for months before it was repaired and the cost of doing business was made up by cutting staffing levels which led to longer response time.”Supporters of Tabor, like Steve Bowen of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, say the decision on how to spend the tax dollars should be made by voters. “We all go to our town meetings,” says Bowen, “the firefighters come in, they say this is the equipment we need and sometimes voters say that’s an appropriate thing and sometimes they say, well this year we can’t afford it. we’re going to ask you to do the best you can, times are tough for all of us.”Opponents are concerned fire departments would have to make serious cuts if Tabor passes. “Tabor will take away the line of duty death benefit that will be paid to our families should we make the ultimate sacrifice.” This is a charge that Bowen says simply is not true. “That’s absolutely false. That benefit is established in state law. There’s a line in Tabor that changes the funding source, but it doesn’t take away the benefit. It doesn’t say the benefit no longer exists, the benefit is still in the state law, you just have to find another account to fund it out of but you still have to fund it, Tabor doesn’t change that.” Paul Gasper is the Executive Director of the Maine Association of Police and he’s afraid if Tabor passes, jobs would have to be cut that ultimately would jeopardize public safety. “To cut positions and take police officers, firefighters, and EMS responders off our streets because of the tough choices that Tabor 2 will force us to make puts our members at risk and ultimately puts our communities at risk as well.”Bowen counters by saying the voters should decide the amount of tax dollars they want to spend for these services. “The voters are going to decide, and these folks are going to have to go to voters and say look, what is the level of service you expect? Here’s how much money that level is going to cost. Do you want to do this or not and let the voters decide?”Evert Fowle is the Kennebec and Somerset County District Attorney. He’s an opponent of Tabor and said this morning that the justice system can’t afford anymore cuts. “The biggest complaint we often hear is that the criminal justice system does not hold offenders accountable, he says, “passage of Tabor stands to only make that worse, we need to prioritize and function on the core factors of state government and Tabor makes no effort to do this.”Bowen argues that cuts are not mandatory with Tabor, unless the voters themselves decide they want them. “Tabor is about giving the people of Maine the chance to choose,” he says, “it doesn’t limit spending absolutely, it doesn’t cut spending, all it says is you, as a policy maker, as a legislature, are allowed to grow government by a certain rate, and if you want to exceed that rate, if you want to grow government faster than you have to ask voters. That is all it does, so it really puts those choices in the hands of the people instead of the politicians.”However the opponents, like Ronnie Brown, don’t want those spending limits that are set during tough economic times to be binding even after the economy turns around. “Question 4, Tabor 2 will set spending limits based on a budget year when we’re experiencing a worse time since the great depression,” says Brown, “even when times are better towns and cities will be forced to stay within these limitations and still not be able to replace aging, failing equipment and provide safe staffing levels.”