While we suffered the astonishing, destructive, and devastating end to our effort on behalf of a Constitutional amendment giving Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife a small percentage of the sales tax, the controversy continues.
I am anxiously awaiting news about what the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine intends to do in reaction to the broken promises of those five Senators who switched their yes votes to no and left us 2 votes short of the necessary two-thirds on the very last legislative vote (see my June 28 blog post on this).
In the meantime, I have sent my own letters to those five Senators. I will attach four of those letters to this report and include the fifth one here. I encourage you to write your own letters. Those five Senators are Michael Thibodeau, Lois Snow-Mello, Elizabeth Schneider, Nancy Sullivan, and Roger Sherman. Sherman, Thibodeau, and Snow-Mello are Republicans. Schneider and Sullivan are Democrats.
If you want to also write to the other Senators who consistently opposed the bill, they are Democratic Senators Justin Alfond, Phil Bartlett, Joe Brannigan, Margaret Craven, Cynthia Dill, Republican Senator Richard Rosen, and Independent Senator Richard Woodbury. Their addresses are available on the legislative website.
And those 22 Senators who steadfastly supported the bill deserve applause and thanks – and your vote in 2012.
Here’s what I wrote to Senator Michael Thibodeau of Winterport.
Senator Michael Thibodeau
169 Coles Corner Road
Winterport, ME 04496
Dear Senator Thibodeau,
By changing your vote to no on the Constitutional amendment to give the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife a small percentage of the sales tax, you broke your promise to the members of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and betrayed the outdoor heritage you and I share as sportsmen.
Here is the question from the SAM PAC survey: SAM is partnering with the Nature Conservancy and Maine Audubon to win a Constitutionally protected source of public funding for DIF&W. Our proposal would allocate a small percentage of the sales tax on outdoor gear to DIF&W and require that this money stay in DIF&W. Can we count on you to support this initiative? Yes No
You checked yes on your survey. In my 18 years as SAM’s executive director, I can’t recall a legislator breaking a promise made in our legislative survey, certainly not on such a critically important vote.
As a sportsman yourself, you must be aware of the inadequacy of DIF&W’s effort all across the board. How can you not be outraged that we continue to provide and pay for, with our license fees, more than $10 million of DIF&W services to the public?
On June 8, you were one of 28 Senators who voted for the Constitutional amendment, four more than we needed to reach the two-thirds requirement necessary to send the issue to referendum.
On June 28, you were one of five Senators who changed your vote to no, derailing a decade of work to win some modest amount of public funding for this beleaguered agency, and blocking the opportunity for the people of Maine to vote on this issue. Although the bill got a 22 to 12 vote in favor, we fell two votes short of the 24 we needed.
When I managed the 1992 campaign that placed Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in the Constitution and protected its revenue, I never imagined that this important agency would receive no public funding for the next 30 years. That campaign was launched to prevent the governor and legislature from using DIF&W revenue for other state programs.
But over the years, governors and legislators saw the department’s revenue as a ceiling, rather than a floor, and refused to provide General Fund tax money to the agency. Finally, this session 99 members of the House and 22 members of the Senate, huge majorities in both bodies, decided that the only way DIF&W would ever get the public funding it deserves and needs was through this Constitutional amendment.
But after six months of intense effort by a coalition of all the major groups representing sportsmen and environmentalists, a public hearing at which there were no opponents, a unanimous “ought-to-pass” vote from the Taxation Committee, a two-thirds vote in the House and two two-thirds votes in the Senate, you chose, at the last minute, to change your vote and block the people from their opportunity to vote on this issue.
Your decision assures that the department – and the outdoor economy that is serves – will continue to decline in Maine.
I am very deeply disappointed.
Sincerely, George A. Smith
|Elizabeth Schneider letter.doc||29 KB|
|Lois Snowe-Mello letter.doc||26.5 KB|
|Nancy Sullivan letter.doc||28.5 KB|
|Roger Sherman letter.doc||26.5 KB|