Don’t miss Edgar Allen Beem’s great column in The Forecaster on our governor, “who would tax land trusts, holds voter-approved conservation projects hostage to his own political agenda, and threatens the very existence of the Land for Maine’s Future Program, one of the state’s finest achievements.” Click here to read the entire column, plus the comments section.
From the Huffington Post: Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) pledged on Friday to veto every single bill sponsored by Democratic state lawmakers until they allow his constitutional amendment banning the income tax to pass through the legislature.
Amending Maine’s state constitution requires the approval of two-thirds of the legislature and a majority of voters.
In a fiery press conference Friday, LePage went after Democrats for opposing the amendment and pledged to make their lives miserable unless they allowed the income tax repeal to get on the ballot in November 2016.
The governor also accused Democrats of disenfranchising voters by blocking his proposal.
“The Maine people deserve to have a say in the income tax, and until they lift it, that’s my leverage,” he said. “And, yes, is that politics? I’m playing their game. I am finally learning to play the game of the politician. And it’s despicable what they are doing.”
LePage’s amendment is part of a budget plan that proposes making up the lost revenue from an abolished income tax by increasing sales taxes, taxing some nonprofit organizations and ending state revenue-sharing with towns and cities.
In March, when explaining his budget at a town hall in Auburn, LePage said that “frankly, the income tax never should have been here. Bringing in the income tax was the start of the downslide in the state of Maine.”
LePage also openly mocked state Democratic leaders during his Friday press conference, specifically naming House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, among others. He expressed frustration that the lawmakers had delayed a vote on his nominee for the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
“This is not why I work 80 hours a week on behalf of the Maine people, to have these children come and play games in the State House,” said LePage. “I think the Speaker of the House should go back home to where he was born, and I think that Mr. Alfond should be put in a playpen.”
Eves is from California.
State House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D) afterward called LePage “angry,” “unglued” and “unhinged,” according to the Bangor Daily News.
TAKE ACTION NOW
In the next 24-72 hours, legislators will vote on two bills to restrict abortion access in Maine. Please take a few minutes right now to call you legislators and tell them that you want to protect access to safe, legal abortion care.
Call your Maine Senator and Maine Representative and tell them to vote NO on LD 1312 and LD 83.
(This toll-free answering service can take your message 24-hours a day.)
Maine Senators: 1-800-423-6900
Maine Representatives: 1-800-423-2900
When you call, say:
- Your name,
- Town that you live in,
- Your legislator’s name, and
- A brief message. For example: “Vote ‘No’ on LD 1312 and LD 83. Maine shouldn’t harm women’s health by restricting access to safe, legal abortion care.
Background information from Rep Jay McCreight:
– LD 1312 – An Act to License Outpatient Surgical Abortion Facilities (a TRAP bill), (Rep. Deb Sanderson, sponsor) Would give DHHS sweeping authority to impose unnecessary regulations on women’s health clinics. Such bills have already closed clinics in Texas, Alabama and Mississippi.
– LD 83 – An Act to Strengthen the Consent Laws for Abortions Performed on Minors and Incapacitated Persons, (Sen. Paul Davis, sponsor) An attempt to restrict access to safe abortion by rescinding current consent law which has worked for 25 years.
To learn more about the legislation and why both Planned Parenthood and the Maine Women’s Lobby oppose it, contact email@example.com .
Your Sagadahoc County Legislators:
Senator Linda Baker: Sagadahoc County & Dresden
Rep Jeffrey Pierce: Arrowsic, Dresden, Georgetown, Phippsburg, Woolwich
Rep Jennifer DeChant: Bath
Rep Brian Hobart: Bowdoin, Bowinham, Richmond
Rep Denise Tepler: Topsham
Rep Jay McCreight: West Bath
In a vote of 16 to 19, Maine Senate Republicans, including Senate Republican Committee Chair Linda Baker, sustained Gov. LePage’s veto and undermined coastal towns’ ability to protect Maine’s clamming industry and address the threatening issue of green crabs.
LD 435 received unanimous bipartisan support in the state’s Marine Resources Committee. Senate Republican Committee Chair Linda Baker sustained Gov. LePage’s veto even though she initially voted for the measure and serves the coastal communities of Georgetown, Phippsburg, West Bath, Woolwich and Arrowsic where clamming is a vital local industry. Municipal shellfish wardens and town officials from these areas have invested a significant amount of time, money and energy into creating a sustainable shellfish harvesting management plan every year to protect this natural resource and the families who depend on its sustainability.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick, would have extended protections put into place last year to protect Maine’s shellfish industry. Softshell clams are Maine’s third most lucrative fishery but in recent years has been threatened due to damage from green crabs. In one year alone, landings went down by half a million pounds from 10.6 million pounds in 2013 to 11.1million pounds in 2012.
“If we want to have clams this summer then we need to do something to protect Maine’s shellfish industry. Furthermore, there is so much on the line for the many hard-working Maine people who rely on this industry to make a living,” said Senator Gerzofsky. “I am disappointed that the bipartisanship that occurred in the committee and earlier in the Senate didn’t carryover to today’s vote.”
According to the Maine Clammers’ Association, clamming directly employs over 1,500 people in the state of Maine. Research shows that the total economic impact of the shellfish industry is approximately $56.0 million, with $29.9 million going to Maine residents as employment income.
The bill would have placed a two year delay on the repeal of the provision of law that prohibits the harvesting of marine organisms from within municipal predator control project areas, except for municipal removal of green crabs. The bill also would have provided a two year extension on the municipal predator control pilot project within the Department of Marine Resources to allow the department to properly evaluate the effectiveness of predator control strategies in increasing the survival rate of soft shell clams and marine worms.
“We, as a state, have a responsibility to ensure sustainability for this key Maine industry by investing in and protecting it for future generations,” said Senator Gerzofsky. “If nothing is done to adequately protect our intertidal areas from green crabs, it will not be long before there is nothing to harvest.”
In Brunswick, mud flats employ over 50 commercial license holders and provide for hundreds of recreational permits, creating nearly $2 million dollars in local revenue annually.
The bill is now dead.
As our legislators consider Governor LePage’s unpaid for $1.7 billion proposal to abolish the income tax, please consider this cautionary tale from Kansas in today’s Portland Press Herald:
“Income tax cuts in Kansas championed by Gov. Sam Brownback have led to credit downgrades, political turmoil and deepening budget deficits. This week, they’ll start forcing schools to close early. As lawmakers work to erase a projected $800 million budget gap for the fiscal year starting July 1, at least eight school districts that saw their funding cut this year because of a greater-than-projected slide in state tax collections will begin shutting down before the scheduled end of classes. Dozens of others have eliminated or cut programs.” [PPH (Tribune News Service), 5/6 ]
Governor LePage and Republican allies are proposing to eliminate the income tax and just like Kansas they have not offered a plan to pay for it.
During a public hearing on the bill yesterday experts and advocates warned Maine would be forced to cut investment in education, which is vital for the state’s economic growth.
“State spending for public schools is now $944 million, about 30 percent of the state budget. ‘You could zero-out education funding, every penny, and it still would only solve half of the (revenue) problem’ if the income tax is eliminated, John Kosinski, representing the Maine Education Association.” [PPH, 5/5]
Maine spends close to $1.2 billion on K-12 and higher education and $750 million on health care for children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Even if the governor cut all state funding for education and half the funding for health care, there still wouldn’t be enough money to cover the cost of eliminating Maine’s income tax.
According to an analysis from the Maine Center for Economic analysis, the top 1 percent of Mainers – 7,000 households with incomes greater than $392,000 – will get a $61,000 income tax cut on average and account for 26 percent of the total amount. Meanwhile, middle-income Mainers – 140,000 households with incomes between $38,000 and $60,000 – will get a $900 income tax cut on average and account for less than 8 percent of the total, while property taxes and sales taxes rise.
Studies have found that property and sales taxes hit middle and low income families the hardest. [NYT, 1/13]
“States and localities have regressive systems because they tend to rely more on sales and excise taxes (fees tacked onto items like gas, liquor and cigarettes), which are the same rate for rich and poor alike. Even property taxes, which account for much of local tax revenue, hit working- and middle-class families harder than the wealthy because their homes often represent their largest asset.
In contrast to the Governor’s proposal, Democrats have proposed a responsible and fair plan for tax reform in Maine. The Better Deal for Maine prioritizes tax cuts for the middle class, lowers property taxes for all Maine homeowners and invests in our schools, workers and communities. It rejects failed trickle-down economics and instead grows the economy from the middle out.
As yesterday’s Spring Social, Representative Jay McCreight updated us on a number of bills pending in the Maine Legislature, including those pertaining to reproductive health care. A number of us asked if she could provide details, and Jay quickly (like within a few hours after the Social ended!) followed up with a summary of those bills as outlined below.
Click on this link, type in LD #, and you can navigate to find sponsors, text, committee of reference, etc.:
– LD 319: An Act to Strengthen the Economic Stability of Qualified Citizens by Expanding Coverage of Reproductive Health Care and Family Services (Rep. Jay McCreight, sponsor) Public hearing and work session done, next step being discussed in Augusta, I will keep GRR updated. In the meantime, please continue to push your legislators to support it.
– LD 1003: An Act To Prohibit Discrimination by Employers and Protect the Privacy of an Applicant for Employment, an Employee or an Employee’s Dependents Regarding Reproductive Health Decisions, (Rep. Jay McCreight, sponsor) This bill proposes a broader definition of protection from employment discrimination (for both sexes and for reproductive health choices) under the Human Rights Act. Public hearing, 9:30 am, Monday, 5/4/15, Judiciary Committee, 4th floor, State House, GRRs always welcome!
– LD 1312 – An Act to License Outpatient Surgical Abortion Facilities (a TRAP bill), (Rep. Deb Sanderson, sponsor) This has been interesting to watch – sponsor wanted this heard in Health and Human Services but this was refused by the House, abortion bills are heard in Judiciary Committee. Public hearing, 5/13/15 and work session 5/20/15, in Judiciary Committee, 4th floor, State House, GRRs always welcome.
– LD 83 – An Act to Strengthen the Consent Laws for Abortions Performed on Minors and Incapacitated Persons, (Sen. Paul Davis, sponsor) This bill would rescind current consent law for abortions and therefore can be understood as an effort restrict access again. Public Hearing, 5/13/15, Judiciary Committee, 4th Floor State House, GRRs always welcome.
LD 1065 – An Act to Amend the Law Regarding Temporary Powers of Attorney Over Minors and Incapacitated Persons, (Rep. Deb Sanderson, sponsor) Public Hearing has been held, Work Session Abortion language is hidden in the language of this bill as was it’s foundation in a non-DHHS program of temporary placement through a Christian organization.
Thanks Jay for your quick follow-up and all your hard work serving West Bath, Harpswell and east Brunswick. If you have any questions for her, contact info is here:
Joyce “Jay” McCreight
Representative, Maine House District 51
Harpswell, West Bath, East Brunswick
Spring is coming and so is the Spring Social! Join us from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 3, at the West Bath Fire Station, 192 State Road, for music, pie, and politics. (Actually, not just pie–you can expect other yummies, too!) To purchase your tickets or to join the Host Committee, click here to visit our ActBlue page
Mike Tipping, progressive blogger, author and columnist, is our Keynote Speaker. Mike writes about Maine politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People’s Alliance and Maine People’s Resource Center, writes a political column for the Portland Press Herald and is the author of The Tipping Point Blog on the website of the Bangor Daily News. He is also author of As Maine Went: Governor Paul LePage and the Tea Party Takeover of Maine.
Democratic leaders in the State House have countered Gov. Paul LePage’s budget with their plan to grow the economy from the middle out rather than the top down.
The leaders unveiled the Better Deal for Maine, which prioritizes tax cuts for the middle class, lowers property taxes for all Maine homeowners and invests in our schools, workers and communities. You can view the plan details here.
“Our Better Deal for Maine plan grows the economy by putting more money in the pockets of working Mainers and by making smart investments in our students and workers so we can grow good jobs and strong wages in our state,” said House Speaker Eves, D-North Berwick. “It rejects the failed top-down economic policies that give tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.”
Speaker Eves, Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe and Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon announced the plan at Cony High School, which is in a school district that could see a $1 million cut in funding if the governor’s budget passes.
“Mainers want a better deal for themselves, a better deal for their communities and a better deal for the economy,” said Alfond, D-Portland. “Under our plan, working Mainers will get a bigger tax cut and see investments in our public schools, roads and jobs to grow our economy.”
The Better Deal for Maine:
- Puts more money in the pockets of Maine families: Cuts property taxes by $120 million annually for Maine residents by doubling the Homestead Exemption for all Maine homeowners and by increasing the Property Tax Fairness Credit by more than $57 million per year.
- Invests in Maine’s future: Bolsters investment in Maine students, workers and seniors. Increases funding for K-12 education by $20 million per year.
- Prevents property tax hikes: Increases revenue sharing to $80 million each year for local services like police, fire, and public works, while rejecting the governor’s new taxes on non-profits.
- Targets income tax cuts for the middle class: Cuts income taxes by hundreds of dollars for the vast majority of Maine families while asking the wealthiest 5 percent to pay their fair share. Under the Better Deal for Maine, 98 percent of income tax cuts go to the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers. Under the governor’s plan, 50 percent of the tax break goes to the top 10 percent.
- Is fiscally responsible: Unlike the governor’s budget, the Better Deal for Maine is fully paid for now and into the future.
Maine citizens — including parents, children, firefighters, teachers and seniors — joined the Democratic leaders to urge support for the Better Deal for Maine.
Kristen Cloutier, a mom, Lewiston city councilor and the city’s representative to the school committee, said she supports the Better Deal for Maine because her 6-year-old daughter and other Maine children deserve an opportunity for a good education.
“Gov. LePage’s budget will cripple the state’s ability to invest in education. It will undercut our students and young families like ours in order to give the wealthiest 1 percent another $10,000 tax cut,” said Cloutier. “The governor’s budget gives away millions of dollars to corporations while eliminating property tax relief for young families. That’s just wrong.”
LePage’s proposal will leave a $300 million hole in the state’s budget starting in 2018. With education funding making up 35 percent of the state budget, there will be no choice but to force cuts to schools. Elsewhere in the United States, in states like Kansas and Louisiana, these kind of top-down economic policies resulted in fiscal crisis and deep cuts to schools.
Jeff Barnes, a senior who lives in Bangor and grew up in Washington County, expressed his concerns about how the governor’s budget makes cuts to vital health care programs for seniors and increases in property taxes. Barnes was a town manager for 10 years and served in the National Guard for 13 years.
“As a senior on a fixed income, this would be devastating,” said Barnes. “I plan to stay and age in my home and community in Bangor. Already, the cost of property taxes and keeping up my home on a fixed income is a challenge.”
Mike Scott, a firefighter from Auburn echoed the concerns about the governor’s budget cuts to revenue sharing, and urged support for the Better Deal for Maine plan.
“Fires, car accidents and other terrible things happen every day. Nobody wants the call for help to go unanswered when it is your family or neighbors who are in danger,” said Scott. “We need the Maine Legislature to do its part to make sure our cities and towns have the resources to maintain a strong public safety system to protect the people of Maine.”
In 2011, LePage promised his tax cuts would lead to strong economic growth. Yet, today the state lags behind the nation and the region when it comes to job and wage growth.
Democratic leaders will hold forums and town halls across the state in the coming weeks to hear from citizens on the Better Deal for Maine proposal.
Chances are you’ve heard about the missing “and.”
This printing error in a major energy bill threatens $38 million in energy efficiency funding, prevents Maine families and businesses from lowering their energy costs and puts at risk jobs in the clean energy sector. Fortunately, there’s a simple, clean fix to this problem.
Good morning. I’m Representative Jennifer DeChant of Bath and I serve on the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. Thank you for tuning in.
This week, dozens of people urged our committee to fix this problem. Energy consumers, contractors and others from the business community were loud and clear. They urged lawmakers to put back the missing “and.” They wanted us to honor the intent of the law, which would have provided up to $60 million in funding for Efficiency Maine.
Elise Brown of Liberty in Waldo County talked to us about how her business made decisions based on the omnibus energy law passed in 2013. She is the co-owner of Evergreen Home Performance, an energy efficiency contracting company that works from Downeast Maine to York County.
Based on the funding level set in the law, Evergreen hired five new employees and invested $50,000 in new equipment and technology. That was before the Public Utilities Commission made a decision in March based on the typo, which left out the word “and” in the part of the law that deals with the funding formula for Efficiency Maine.
Elise Brown told us that there will be serious consequences for her business and more than 700 other Efficiency Maine registered vendors if this typographical error is not corrected swiftly. She pointed out that these jobs can only be stable if the state has predictable long-term energy policies.
Elise Brown urged us to support a bill – LD 1215 – that simply corrects the printing error in the law. The bill is a bipartisan measure sponsored by Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport and cosponsored by Republican Senator Roger Katz of Augusta, Republican Representative Larry Dunphy of Embden and Democratic Senator Bill Diamond of Windham.
This is a bill that is supported by lawmakers who want a clean fix for the good of Maine families and businesses: mom-and-pop operations and big paper companies that rely on energy efficiency to save on their energy costs and contractors and other business people who work in the clean energy field.
The committee also learned how Efficiency Maine has made the difference between struggling and expanding for the manufacturers represented by the Maine Pellet Fuels Association.
Those manufacturers in Strong, Athens, Corinth and Ashland directly employ 126 people. The industry as a whole employs more than 500 people, mostly loggers but also heating contractors who install boilers.
We also heard from the Industrial Energy Consumer Group, a trade association that represents medium and large energy consumers, the Maine Association of Building Efficiency Professionals, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and many others worried about the fate of Efficiency Maine.
Many of my fellow legislators recognize that the 2013 energy law was negotiated in good faith. It was a complex law with lots of moving parts, one that required a lot of give and take by everyone involved.
We need to honor the hard work and cooperation that created this landmark energy law. We need to do right for all the Maine people and businesses that are counting on us. We can do all that by pursuing the most straightforward and honest solution – one that’s already before us.
All we have to do is put back the missing “and.”
I’m Representative Jennifer DeChant of Bath. Thank you for listening.