Tax Protestors Launch ‘Tea Party’ in Maine

Published December 1, 2005

At the Windham Veteran’s Center, a crowd watched from a safe distance as tax reform advocate Mary Adams lit the fuse on a cast-iron cannon, a replica of the cannons that once fired on the British during the American Revolution.

The bang sent a shudder through the audience who, after unplugging their ears, clapped at the thundering kickoff to the Second Great American Tea Party.

Like the Boston Tea Party of 1773, more than a hundred people came together in late September for this event, organized by the grassroots tax reform group Citizen’s Alliance of Maine, to protest rising taxes.

‘Hurt by High Taxes’

“We are living in a state that is being hurt by high taxes, and we have to do something about it,” said John Dinan of Falmouth. “We’ve been offered no other option. It seems to me Augusta is not listening.”

Inside the Veteran’s Center, Dinan and other local taxpayers listened to speeches about rising property taxes and “out of control” government spending. The speakers advocated for the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, a citizen’s initiative to curb local and state spending, and took aim at L.D. 1, a state tax reform law, passed in early 2005, that put a limit on local and state spending, raised state aid for local schools, and doubled property tax rebates.

Jack Wibby, founder of the Citizen’s Alliance, looked at aspects of L.D. 1 and asked the audience to rate on a ballot whether they felt the legislation provided “real” property tax relief.

‘Is This Tax Relief?’

Wibby said the local spending caps imposed by L.D. 1 could be overridden by “a simple majority vote of town officials who made the budget” and asked querulously, “Is this property tax relief?”

He also noted that though the Homestead Exemption–a rebate given to home owners whose primary home is in Maine–had been doubled, it required towns to pick up half the cost of the rebate.

After a roar of applause, Adams, dubbed “General Adams” and wearing a tricorner hat, took the floor and called for people to “continue the American Revolution” by supporting the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. Adams said tax reform supporters were “a middle-class pitchfork army up against tremendous resistance.”

“We are going to tell the people of Maine the truth, and the truth will prevail,” Adams said.

Government Large, Inefficient

That truth, Adams said, is that Maine citizens are being overtaxed by “a large and inefficient state government.”

“We are becoming an occupied people who are paying for our own occupation,” Adams said. “When did public servants become public serpents?”

She then likened the Windham tea party to the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. She called that battle, where local militias came out in force to support the patriots, the “turning point” of the American Revolution, and she expressed her hope that this tea party would do the same for the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Limits Spending Growth

The Taxpayers Bill of Rights is a proposed amendment to the state constitution that does not cut local and state spending, Adams noted for the audience; it just puts a limit on state and local increases in spending, after adjusting for inflation and population growth.

Legislative support for the Taxpayers Bill of Rights has so far come entirely from the Republican Party. Republican legislators, such as Rep. Richard Cebra of Naples and Rep. Gary Plummer of Windham, attended the tea party to show their support for tax reform, and Rep. Scott Lansley of Sabattus read a letter by Maine National Republican Committeeman and 2002 gubernatorial candidate Peter Cianchette endorsing the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Though the tea party was open to all taxpayers, regardless of political party, there were several partisan barbs–such as Adams’ “the socialist in tweed is harder to spot than a red coat on a fat horse.”

The citizen’s initiative needs about 50,000 signatures to be put on the November 2006 ballot. Adams, who is organizing the petition drive, hopes to get more than the number needed, in case some signatures are deemed invalid by the state.

Douglas Wright ([email protected]) is staff writer at the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly in Windham, Maine. This article originally appeared September 30. Reprinted by permission.

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Information on the Maine Taxpayers Bill of Rights is available at