Today, May 2nd, isn’t just notable as the birthday of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (45). It’s also the expiration day for the cut-taxes-and-welfare Frankenstein initiative proposed by Governor Paul LePage and the Maine Republican Party back in 2015. With time now having officially run out to gather signatures to place the measure on the ballot, the monster is officially dead.
The initiative had a rocky start. There were legal and technical objections to linking disparate issues like eliminating the income tax and limiting access to food stamps on one signature form or one ballot question. The particulars of the effort itself were also badly managed by the Republican Party and I was among the first to predict things wouldn’t go well.
Their biggest mistake seems to have been thinking it’s easy to get an initiative on Maine’s ballot, or perhaps that the issues they were trumpeting would garner more grassroots support. Despite collecting on election day in 2015 and spending tens of thousands of dollars on paid signature gatherers, they came up far short of their goals. By January of last year, even as other initiative drives begun much later were making the ballot deadline, the Maine GOP seemed resigned to failure.
Up until today, they could have still kept going and placed their measure on a future ballot (as they said last year that they would), but apparently they judged the logistical and political hurdles too high and abandoned the effort.
This expiration comes as Governor LePage and Republicans in the legislature are attempting to make the referendum process in Maine (already one of the most onerous in the country) even more difficult. Perhaps they should take a lesson from their own experience and realize that if a sitting governor and a major political party can’t gather enough signatures to make the ballot, perhaps the restrictions in place on direct democracy are already great enough.