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2016 Maine Question 4

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Question 4: Citizen Initiative
An Act to Raise the Minimum Wage
Votes %
Yes 420,892 55.50%
No 337,486 44.50%
Valid votes 758,378 98.27%
Invalid or blank votes 13,330 1.73%
Total votes 771,708 100.00%

Maine Question 4, formally An Act to Raise the Minimum Wage,[1] is a citizen-initiated referendum question that appeared on the Maine November 8, 2016 statewide ballot. It sought to increase Maine's minimum wage from $7.50 per hour to $12 an hour by 2020, as well as increasing the minimum wage for tipped employees gradually to the same level by 2024. It would also index increases after 2024 to inflation. As the Maine Legislature and Governor Paul LePage declined to enact the proposal as written, it appeared on the ballot along with elections for President of the United States, Maine's two U.S. House seats, the Legislature, other statewide ballot questions, and various local elections. Efforts to place a competing, more moderate proposal alongside the citizen-initiated bill were unsuccessful.

The proposal was enacted by voters, with 55% in favor. The changes to the tip credit were later reversed by the Legislature.


Efforts to increase Maine's $7.50 minimum wage have been stymied at the Maine State House by Republican Governor Paul LePage, who vetoed a proposal to increase the wage to $9.50 over three years in 2013.[2] Legislative Republicans sustained the veto,[2] despite indications an increase has broad support from Mainers. One poll indicated that support for raising the federal minimum wage was at 75% of Mainers, including 59% of Republicans.[3]


The Maine AFL–CIO and Maine People's Alliance launched a petition drive on April 16, 2015 seeking to collect upwards of the roughly 60,000 signatures needed to place a question on the ballot.[2] The Maine Secretary of State's Office announced on February 16, 2016 that organizers had submitted over 75,000 valid signatures to place the question on the ballot. The bill went before the Legislature, which could have passed it and sent it to Governor LePage for his signature or rejection, or simply allowed it to go to the ballot. It also could have placed its own measure dealing with the minimum wage alongside the proposal as a competing measure. Business groups, including the Retail Association of Maine and the Maine Chamber of Commerce, considered a competing proposal to put before the Legislature to place on the ballot. The Chamber cited national polling indicating 6 in 10 Americans support a $12 per hour wage an indication that the referendum would likely pass, and is seeking to mitigate what it sees as harm to businesses.[4]

Competing measures[edit]

The Bangor Chamber of Commerce announced their competing proposal on February 26, which is to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2020, starting with a $1 increase and then 50¢ a year thereafter until reaching $10. It would also maintain the tip credit towards the minimum wage, unlike the referendum. State Rep. Stacey Guerin (R-Glenburn) said she would sponsor the bill.[5] Gov. LePage announced that he would support the competing proposal as he viewed it as less harmful to businesses, largely due to maintaining the tip credit.[6]

The idea of a competing proposal does not have universal support among opponents of the referendum, with some like State Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) stating that they oppose any increase in the minimum wage and would rather focus on defeating the referendum than passing a more moderate proposal. House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe also indicated a more moderate proposal would face difficulty in the House, stating that "we had this opportunity last year" and that it was now too late for a compromise.[7] One attempt by House Republicans to place a competing measure on the ballot was rejected by a 78–67 vote. The GOP-led Senate was able to vote on the proposal but without House support the effort failed.[8] Competing proposals with citizen initiatives are rare in Maine. The previous one was in 2003. One in 1996, involving forest clearcutting, generated significant confusion for voters.[5]

Minority House Republicans have said they will oppose efforts to allocate a $55 million revenue surplus to certain programs and the budget stabilization fund(also known as the rainy day fund) unless Democrats agree to permit the competing proposal to go to the ballot.[9]

Governor LePage has also stated he will not consider any additional spending unless a competing measure is placed on the ballot. He submitted his own proposal for one on April 5, 2016 at the request of Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing, which is similar to others that were already rejected by the House. LePage has claimed an increase will hurt elderly Social Security recipients and young people, who would be unable to get jobs due to more experienced people being unemployed as a result of the wage increase. House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe stated that while he expects further attempts at a competing proposal, they would likely be rejected.[10][11]

A last-ditch effort by Republicans to pass an emergency bill to immediately institute a gradual increase to a $10 minimum wage, starting with an increase to $9 on July 1, 2016, cleared the Senate by a 22–10 vote but failed to get the necessary 2/3 vote required to enact an emergency measure. Republicans stated that the bill, submitted by Governor LePage, was made an emergency measure to avoid being considered a competing measure that would be required to appear on the ballot.[12]

Question wording[edit]

On June 16, 2016, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce filed its objection to the proposed wording of the question that appears on the ballot. They criticized Secretary Dunlap for not including information about the indexing of the minimum wage to inflation after 2024 as well as the elimination of the tip credit. They proposed their own wording of the question which did contain those aspects of the question, which they claimed would be clearer and reflect the true intent of the referendum. Referendum supporters criticized the MSCC's proposed wording as "long, complex and byzantine", noting that Maine state statutes require referendum questions to be simple, concise, clear and direct. They called the proposal an effort to confuse voters.[13]

Dunlap released the final wording of the question on June 23, which will read as "Do you want to raise the minimum hourly wage of $7.50 to $9 in 2017, with annual $1 increases up to $12 in 2020, and annual cost-of-living increases thereafter; and do you want to raise the direct wage for service workers who receive tips from half the minimum wage to $5 in 2017, with annual $1 increases until it reaches the adjusted minimum wage?"[14]

Notable endorsements[edit]




Date of opinion poll Conducted by Sample size
(likely voters)
Yes No Undecided Margin of error
October 20–25, 2016[22] University of New Hampshire 761 57% 35% 8% ±3.6%
September 15–20, 2016[23] University of New Hampshire 506 60% 12% 28% ±4.3%


Question 4 Results[24]
County Yes Votes No Votes
Androscoggin 50.9% 28,795 49.1% 27,735
Aroostook 53.7% 19,010 46.3% 16,378
Cumberland 61.2% 106,325 38.8% 67,431
Franklin 51.9% 8,740 48.1% 8,108
Hancock 55.4% 18,037 44.6% 14,499
Kennebec 51.4% 34,519 48.6% 32,589
Knox 60.4% 14,169 39.6% 9,294
Lincoln 56.2% 12,297 43.8% 9,567
Oxford 53.2% 16,957 46.8% 14,919
Penobscot 46.9% 38,247 53.1% 43,383
Piscataquis 45% 4,214 55% 5,150
Sagadahoc 56.5% 12,446 43.5% 9,588
Somerset 46.9% 12,414 53.1% 14,036
Waldo 54.2% 12,484 45.8% 10,532
Washington 54.1% 9,050 45.9% 7,688
York 60.5% 70,203 39.5% 45,840
UOCAVA 79.5% 2,985 20.5% 769
Total 55.5% 420,892 45.5% 337,486

Tip credit restoration[edit]

After passage of the referendum, some restaurant servers were concerned that loss of the tip credit would mean they would actually get less money than they did with the tip credit, though such a view was not universal among those workers. Restaurant owners were also concerned that their costs would go up, forcing them to reduce hours for workers or raise menu prices.[25] State Sen. Roger Katz stated that voters supporting the referendum did not intend to drive down wages for any group of workers.[26] A public hearing on a bill to restore the tip credit was one of the most heavily attended legislative hearings in all of 2017, with advocates on both sides of the issue testifying.[25] The bill was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. LePage on June 27, 2017 to restore the tip credit, though the minimum wage itself was unchanged.[27]


  1. ^ "Maine Citizen's Guide to the Referendum Election" (PDF). State of Maine Office of the Secretary of State. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-10-18. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  2. ^ a b c "Referendum launched for $12 Maine minimum wage by 2020". 16 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Increase in minimum wage favored in Maine poll". 29 September 2014.
  4. ^ "Business Coalition Drafting Competing Minimum Wage Measure". 25 February 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Bangor Chamber backs $10 statewide minimum wage alternative". Bangor Daily News. 26 February 2016.
  6. ^ "LePage Backs Alternative Minimum Wage Proposal". MPBN. March 1, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Maine business groups pitch smaller wage hike to GOP lawmakers". 25 February 2016.
  8. ^ "House Democrats reject competing Maine minimum wage effort". Bangor Daily News. March 24, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  9. ^ "Maine GOP: No new spending unless lower wage hike option makes ballot". Bangor Daily News. March 30, 2016. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  10. ^ a b "LePage Submits His Own Competing Minimum Wage Measure". MPBN. April 5, 2016. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  11. ^ "LePage: Republicans 'caving every time the Democrats ask them to'". Bangor Daily News. April 5, 2016. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  12. ^ "Last-minute minimum wage increase attempt by LePage falls short in Senate". Bangor Daily News. April 15, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  13. ^ "Innkeepers, Restaurant Owners Oppose Minimum Wage Ballot Question Wording". MPBN. June 16, 2016. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
  14. ^ "Maine secretary of state revises wording of all five November ballot questions". Bangor Daily News. June 23, 2016. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
  15. ^ a b "Baldacci brothers to host minimum-wage event in Augusta". Kennebec Journal. April 29, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  16. ^ http://www.centralmaine.com/.../our-opinion-vote-yes-on-question-4-to-raise-the- minimum-wage/
  17. ^ "Election 2016 | EqualityMaine". Archived from the original on 2016-10-04. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  18. ^ "A higher minimum wage will make a difference for those who work hard, still struggle". 18 October 2016.
  19. ^ "Gov. Paul LePage turns awards lunch into political speech". Lewiston Sun-Journal. March 22, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  20. ^ "Unintended Consequences: How the minimum wage increase in Question 4 would kill jobs". 29 September 2016.
  21. ^ "Minimum wage increase: Great appeal, great cost". 22 September 2016.
  22. ^ "Leads shrink for 4 of the 6 Maine ballot issues, poll indicates". Portland Press Herald. 31 October 2016.
  23. ^ "Poll shows 6 out of 10 Mainers back $12 minimum wage by 2020". Portland Press Herald. 28 September 2016.
  24. ^ "Tabulations for Elections held in 2016". Bureau of Corporations, Elections & Commissions. Maine Department of the Secretary of State. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  25. ^ a b "Maine's restaurant industry weighs in on minimum wage, 'tip credit'". WGME.com. WGME. 5 April 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Maine Senate votes to change voter-approved wage law by restoring tip credit". Portland Press Herald. June 7, 2017. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  27. ^ "LePage signs bill into law to restore tip credit". Bangor Daily News. June 27, 2017. Retrieved March 20, 2018.

External links[edit]