Will Mainers vote to increase school funding by $157 million in 2016?

Good morning, folks.

Whatever you think of Gov. Paul LePage and his wife, Ann, put them front and center in your thoughts this morning as they mourn the death of Ann’s mother, Rita DeRosby. DeRosby, who lived with the LePages at the Blaine House, died on Sunday at age 77 after a long illness.

According to her obituary, DeRosby was born in St. Agatha, way at the northern tip of Maine, in 1938. She married Richard DeRosby in 1957 and they raised four children together. She worked for Keyes Fibre Company, a manufacturer of paper and plastic dinnerware in Waterville, for 39 years. What defined her, though, was her verve for life. From her obituary:

“She was known for her unconditional love and support. Her infectious laugh and her beautiful smile could bring joy to anyone.”

I never met Rita but if she’s anything like Ann, she was a real gem. It’s often said that music is salve for the soul, so here’s a song for Rita. — Christopher Cousins

Education proponents working to put $157 million question on 2016 ballot

The Maine Education Association and the Maine People’s Alliance have teamed up as a group called Stand Up for Students to try to force state government to provide $157 million in additional funding for Maine’s public schools.

“If Maine is going to have a bright, prosperous future, all students must have equal opportunities for learning and success regardless of where they live or go to school,” said MEA President Lois Kilby-Chesley in a written statement. “Maine students, parents, teachers and taxpayers have waited for 12 years for the state to meet its promise to fund 55 percent of public schools. We have never gotten there and in the last few years that amount has actually gone down, forcing our towns to make up the difference.”

While school spending has trended slightly upward under Gov. Paul LePage, the cost of running schools has increased more quickly. Mainers voted in 2003 for the state to cover 55 percent of the cost of education but the state has never achieved that percentage.

Stand up for Students proposes a new tax on households earning more than $200,000 a year equal to $30 for every $1,000 of income over $200,000.

Supporters must collect approximately 62,000 signatures from verifiable Maine voters to force the question to the November 2016 ballot, which is shaping up to be a doozy. Already in progress are petitions to hold referenda on legalizing recreational marijuana, increasing the state’s minimum wage, cutting the income tax, instituting welfare reform initiatives and creating a ranked-choice voting system in Maine.

With the presidential election and legislative races also on the ballot, I’m predicting a heavy voter turnout. You heard it here first. — Christopher Cousins

Jeb Bush qualifies for Maine caucuses

The Maine Republican Party announced Tuesday that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has officially qualified for Maine’s March 5, 2016 presidential nominating caucus.

File this under “unsurprising news.”

“My family has always had a strong connection to Maine and I am looking forward to competing for Maine’s delegates at the state caucuses in March,” said Bush in a written statement. “We are organizing volunteers and activists across the country to put together a strong ground organization built for the long haul.”

Bush becomes the second Republican to qualify in Maine, behind Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who qualified in September.

Jason Savage, executive director of the Republican party, said qualifying involves some paperwork and paying a $10,000 fee to help cover the cost of the caucuses. He said more Republicans are expected to qualify soon.

The Democrats will caucus one day after the Republicans, on March 6, 2016. They have a different qualifying process that involves receiving at least 15 percent support at a municipal caucus. There is no fee involved. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Back to the Future day

As you may have heard, we’re due for the arrival of a time traveler. Today is the day that Marty McFly leaped forward to from 1989 in the movie Back to the Future II. There are groups all over the world awaiting his, um, arrival. The venerable newspaper The Guardian even has live updates.

In the movie, McFly arrives in … today … (this is awkward) … to find a woman president in the White House and the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.

As you know, Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination and the Cubs are locked in a playoff series with the New York Mets. The Cubs are down 3-0 in that series, but anything is possible. After all, the Red Sox made history in 2004 by coming back from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees. My oldest son was in the womb at the time and I remain convinced that my 8-months-pregnant wife and I screaming at the television led to what has become a life-long aversion to loud noises. In fact, when we took him to his first Sox game in 2006, he burst out crying every time the crowd cheered.

If you see Marty, send him and his time-hopping Delorean my way. I’d like to go back to 2004 and, bloody Schilling sock or not, maybe tone it down a bit. — Christopher Cousins


Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.