- Associated Press - Friday, January 29, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine Republicans haven’t collected enough signatures to put a proposal to cut income taxes and reform welfare on the November ballot, but the state’s GOP chair says they aren’t abandoning the effort.

Petition gatherers will continue collecting signatures with an eye toward putting the proposal on the ballot next year, Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett announced Friday.

“When we file with the secretary of state, we want to be sure there will be no doubt about our qualification for the ballot,” he said.

The deadline for submitting signatures for the November ballot is Monday, and at least 61,123 signatures must be certified to make the cut. The party didn’t announce how many signatures it has collected.

The GOP effort focuses on two issues championed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who vowed to go directly to the people after he failed to get the proposals approved in the Legislature.

The income tax proposal would cut the top rate from 7.15 percent to 4 percent over four years. It also provides a pathway for elimination of the income tax altogether after the state negotiates a new liquor contract and creates an income tax relief fund.

As for welfare, the proposal has several changes including mandating drug tests for certain benefits and eliminating benefits for asylum seekers.

The GOP effort got off to a late start in September and the final language for the legislation wasn’t printed until the day before this past Election Day. That led to a scramble to get the petitions to polling places, a key place for gathering signatures.

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