Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House.
Maine Community College System Seeks Increase in State Funding
In the upcoming legislative session, Maine’s lawmakers will consider a request from the Maine Community College System (MCCS) for a 13 percent increase in state funding. The majority of this additional funding, if provided, would allow MCCS to expand its workforce development programs to increase the number of graduates and provide additional training to individuals already working. The 13 percent increase would bring the state’s contribution to MCCS from $62 million in 2017 to $70 million in 2019. The state’s current contribution accounts for 38 percent of the MCCS total budget.
Healthy Maine Partnership Program Discontinued
Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has cancelled its Healthy Maine Partnership program. The Healthy Maine Partnership worked with communities to address substance abuse, tobacco, and chronic disease prevention with funding from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. The 27 agencies across the state that were part of the program were told that five agencies will be subcontracted to provide a more centralized health education approach. DHHS explained that this centralized approach will allow for better measurement of data and outcomes.
Proposal Would Prevent PACs from Paying Maine Lawmakers
The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices is proposing legislation that would stop Political Action Committees (PACs) from compensating legislators or family members for services provided to PACs where the legislator has a “principal role” in the PAC. This restriction would apply to all PACs, and not be limited to just leadership PACs. A similar bill proposed last session was among those vetoed by Governor LePage.
Maine’s Forest Products Industry Gets a Boost
The University of Maine’s Economic Development Program and the University of Southern Maine will share a federal grant from the Economic Development Administration worth more than $166,000. The funds are to be used to provide technical assistance in the state’s forest products industry to support innovation and research and development.
MDF Keynote Speaker Offers Advice to Rebuild Maine’s Forest Economy
Carleton Owen, the President and CEO of the United States Endowment for Forestry & Communities, provided encouraging advice to about 250 leaders attending the Maine Development Foundation’s annual meeting in Portland on September 27. Owen’s national perspective offered some new thoughts for consideration including acting to: (1) replace our state’s oil consumption with wood and biomass to retain “massive amounts of money” in the Maine economy; (2) explore the opportunity to manufacture “cross-laminated timber” that places low value wood inside higher value lumber for a stronger building product; and (3) consider restructuring organizations into benefit corporations to balance maximizing profit and building community benefits. In his conclusion, he observed that Maine has a shortage of markets for the products it has historically manufactured, and would be well-served to innovate and diversify its products to leverage the state’s water and trees.
Upcoming Referendum Questions – starting this week, and continuing until the November 8th election, we will be providing information on the upcoming referendum questions.
Big Money Being Spent in Effort to Pass Question 1, Legalizing Marijuana
The first referendum question appearing on the Maine ballot this November will ask residents if they support legalizing recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. Recent reports on campaign contributions show those in support of legalizing marijuana have raised more than $1.3 million. Most of this money has come from out-of-state sources with more than 60 percent of this total provided by the New Approach PAC, an organization based in Washington, D.C. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol believes legalizing marijuana for adults will generate millions in tax dollars as well as eliminate costs currently associated with enforcing Maine’s current marijuana laws. Those opposed to the legalization of marijuana have raised just over $50,000. Mainer’s Protecting Our Youth and Communities have voiced concerns that legalizing marijuana will only worsen Maine’s current drug epidemic and allow for “pot clubs” to be established, increasing the risk of minors gaining access to the drug.
You can find information on the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol at www.regulatemaine.org. The Mainer’s Protecting Our Youth and Communities information can be found at www.notonmymainestreet.com/maine-press and www.facebook.com/NotOnMyMaineStreet.
Maine State Chamber of Commerce Announces Coalition to Defeat Question 2, the 3% Income Tax Surcharge
On September 15, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce announced that a coalition comprised of over 20 Maine trade and professional associations had been formed to oppose Question 2. Question 2 proposes to assess a 3 percent income tax surcharge on household incomes over $200,000, to fund an account dedicated to paying salaries for educators. Dana Connors, President of the Chamber, explained that household incomes would include single and joint filers, as well as income from small and family-owned businesses, such as subchapter S corporations, limited liability companies and partnerships. In their Stand up for Students campaign, the Maine Education Association and the National Education Association (NEA) assert that Maine needs to fulfill its obligation to pay 55 percent of the costs of education. It has been reported that the NEA has contributed more than $1.2 million in support of Question 2. The Vote No on 2 coalition agrees that the state has some education funding problems, but asserts that this legislation is the wrong solution.
The Chamber cited additional resources and information at www.votenoonquestion2.com and www.facebook.com/VoteNoOnQ2. The Stand up for Students campaign information can be found at www.standupforstudentsmaine.org and www.facebook.com/StandUpforStudents.