AFA Update: Thursday, May 21, 2015- Forest Ranger votes

  • This afternoon AFA convened around the horseshoe to vote on portions of the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry budget.
  • The committee also voted to exempt two bills from the AFA Table.

This afternoon Appropriations voted on measures related to the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry committee and exempted two items from the Appropriations Table.

Audio of today’s hearing may be found here.

ACF Budget

  • The committee voted to require the Director of the Bureau of Forestry to appoint no fewer than 45 and no more than 50 Forest Ranger II positions. With the understanding the the 48 Rangers currently employed will stay employed. The amendment also requires that the Director appoint no fewer than 16 Forest Rangers, classified as follows: 3 regional Rangers, 8 District Rangers, 1 Ranger Pilot Supervisor, and 4 Ranger Pilots.
    • Senator Katz was the lone dissenting vote against this measure.
  • The committee rejected the proposal to establish 7 Natural Law Enforcement Officers.
  • The committee voted to eliminate a provision in law prohibiting the Commissioner from purchasing firearms without authorization from the Legislature. The Commissioner can now choose to arm forest rangers if the dept chooses to do so.
  • The committee rejected the proposal to create a new Bureau of Conservation and reduce the overall number of bureaus from 4 to 3.
  • The committee voted to limit timber harvesting on public lands to an average of 160,000 cords over a 3 year period.
AFA Table

AFA Update Friday, May 15, 2015: Republican tax proposal

As widely reported the Republicans on the AFA committee rolled out an alternative tax plan this afternoon.

The Speaker released the following statement:

“We have been waiting for Republicans to bring forward a plan since they have clearly rejected the Governor’s proposal. Time is short and we must get to work,” said Speaker Eves, D-North Berwick. “Democrats will be at the table fighting for a responsible budget that grows the economy from the middle out, with targeted tax cuts for middle- and low-income families and the wealthy paying their fair share. The new Republican proposal provides zero new property tax relief, while prioritizing huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy.”

Questions remain about how the plan is paid for in the future.

Audio of today’s rollout can be found here.

The materials shared by the Republicans are here.

Highlights are below:

Rs Tax Proposal

  • Revenue Sharing at $62M in FY16 and then $64M in FY17, roughly 2%.
  • Income tax brackets at
Income FY16 FY17
$0-$5,250 0% 0%
$5,251-$50,000 6.25% 5.95%
50000-∞ 6.75% 6.5%
  • General sales tax maintained at 5.5%
  • Increase Service Provider tax at 6% as proposed by the Governor
  • No sales tax base expansion
  • Increase the meals and lodging rates to 9%
  • Change the Estate tax to the $5.5M federal exemption level, rejecting the Governor’s repeal
  • Change corporate rate as proposed by the Governor
  • Keep Telecommunications Property Tax with the state not the municipalities as proposed by the Governor
  • Change BETR/BETE as proposed by the Governor
  • Retained the current Homestead Property Tax exemption

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates that this plan is a net tax increase for people with less than $57,0000 in taxable income ($112,000 for couples)

The Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) issued a statement condemning the Republican plan. They also released an ITEP distributional analysis:

Two ways to look at the bottom line are:

Net Change in State Taxes
FY16 FY17 Biennium
Governor*
44,300,000
(189,300,000) (145,500,000)
Better Deal Plan* 108,100,000 9,300,000 117,400,000
Republicans* 43,996,225 (96,477,858) (2,481,633)

*Based on December 1, 2014 Revenue Forecasting Committee report

Impact on GF Budget
FY16 FY17 Biennium
Governor* 148,900,000 (22,600,000) 126,300,000
Better Deal Plan* 187,200,000 86,800,000 274,000,000
Republicans* 139,004,520 (7,780,547) 131,223,973

*Based on December 1, 2014 Revenue Forecasting Committee report
Rep. Winsor said, “We don’t have support for any of the existing plans.”

Sen. Valentino asked a series of technical questions on the Other Prepared Foods, Meals and lodging and the general sales tax as the numbers in the AFA Rs proposal differ from the generally accepted numbers.

In response OFPR staff cautioned that the plan will need to be scored fully and these numbers represent estimates.

The Appropriations committee will meet on mic again on Monday but the caucuses will continue their work this weekend.

AFA Update: Thursday, May 14, 2015- Tax votes, a Republican tax plan, changes to LD 1 and Medicaid Expansion

Wednesday afternoon the Appropriations committee met to discuss technical issues and to vote on certain tax items.

Commissioner Rosen and Deputy Commissioner Mike Allen led off the afternoon by presenting information related to Part M of the Governor’s proposed budget.

Part M, contains a number of changes to how yearend General Fund (GF) surpluses are handled and changes to the state’s appropriations growth limit as created in 2005 under LD 1.

The changes have the effect of starkly limiting the growth of possible GF funding into the future, even beyond that contained in LD 1.

Another provision eliminates the current exemption of the majority of state aid to local education (GPA) from the growth factor.

Materials provided by Commissioner Rosen can be found here.

The materials also include an updated table outlining the revenue expected following the May 1 Revenue Forecasting Committee (RFC) report.

A description of proposed changes to the treatment of yearend surpluses is the final piece of the packet. The Governor has proposed changing the portion of yearend GF surpluses that go to the Budget Stabilization Fund (BSF or “Rainy Day Fund”) from the current 48% to 80%.

AFA was joined by members of the Health and Human Services committee for a presentation by the Mannat Health Solutions. Mannat presented a report that outlines Maine would see net savings of $26.7M in FY16 by implementing the MaineCare expansion portion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Republican members of both committees made a point of not attending this briefing by Mannat.

Patricia Boozang of Mannat presented the report and answered questions.

Costs, Budget Savings and Revenue Gains from MaineCare Expansion, April 2015 prepared by Manatt Health Solutions (MHS) for the Maine Health Access Foundation.  MHS  is the interdisciplinary health policy and business strategy advisory division of the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP.

Manatt has worked with hospital associations in Missouri, Oklahoma, Alabama and Louisiana in developing alternative expansion coverage strategies in those states. They also were retained by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to assist eleven states (Virginia, Maryland, Alabama, Rhode Island, New York, Minnesota, Michigan, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois and Oregon) with implementing expansion coverage provisions, including evaluation of expansion strategies. They represented New Hampshire and Arkansas in developing private market coverage options that included managed care, health savings/independence accounts, healthy behavior standards and private market options.  Most recently Manatt assisted Montana’s state Medicaid program in developing a coverage model that relies on monthly premiums and co-pays and provides for employment assessment and participation in workforce development programs.

Manatt’s independent analysis finds $26.7 million in State budget savings are likely in Calendar year 2016 if the state accepts the federal funds set aside for Maine to improve access to coverage through the ACA:

  • State savings coupled with the new revenues that would flow to Maine as a result of expanding access to health coverage are sufficient to offset state costs attributable to expansion in calendar year 2016.
  • Findings are based on the experiences of eight states that expanded access to coverage early on – all are seeing significant state budget savings and revenue gains from expansion.

Manatt analyzed what the impact of using enhanced federal funds to expand access to coverage through MaineCare would have on Maine’s budget.  The analysis includes a discrete assessment of state costs, savings and revenue gains and does not include the broader economic impacts of expansion including job creation and other economic gains.

Manatt used publicly available Maine data along with the new information from states that have expanded their Medicaid programs to develop conservative savings estimates for Maine including:.

  • Total Savings from Accessing Enhanced Federal Matching Funds                       $12.6 million
  • Total Estimated Savings from Replacing State General Funds

               with Medicaid Funds                                                                                                                       $27.9 million

  • Total Estimated Revenue Gains                                                                                   +        $3.4 million

TOTAL ESTIMATED Savings and Revenue gains                                                                  $43.9 million         

  • Total Estimated Costs of Expansion              –       ($17.2 million)

             TOTAL NET Estimated Savings of Medicaid Expansion in Maine                                    $26.7 million

 

Maine would achieve savings in state funded only programs including state funded mental health and substance abuse programs ($20.3 M), hospital inpatient cost of prisoners ($5.4 M), health care paid for through General Assistance ($.5 M), Maine’s Drug for the Elderly Program ($.4) and Family Planning services ($1.4 M).

Maine would realize greater federal match (100% in 2016, 95% in 2017, 90% in 2020 and beyond) for health care provided to populations it currently pays for using a smaller federal match (historically Maine paid about 38% of the costs:  some people with disabilities ($2.9), Maine’s medically needy ($4.5 M),  pregnant women ($1.9 M), people receiving care through Maine’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program ($.9 M) and HIV Waiver Program ($2.3 M).  Finally, Maine would realize an additional $3.4 M in revenues generated from the existing hospital assessment of 2.23% of net operating revenue since expanding coverage will increase hospital services and revenues.

The following items were voted as well:

  • Rejected the Governor’s proposal to require municipalities to tax non-profits
  • Accepted Part CCCC of the change package, (Rep. Verrow’s bill to exempt motor vehicle adaptive equipment from motor vehicle excise tax)
  • Accepted Parts H- 28 and H-44 (Rep. Powers bill to exempt non-profit libraries from the sales tax
  • Rejected the elimination of certain income tax form contribution check offs
  • Accepted the repeal of the following credits:
    • Forest management planning
    • Retirement and disability
    • Contributions to Family Development Accounts
    • Biofuel commercial production and use
    • Quality child care investment
    • High-technology investment
    • Employer provided long-term care benefits
    • Employer assisted day care
    • Jobs and investment
  • Increase the use tax calculation from 0.8% to 0.1%
  • Rejected the repeal of the special treatment of vending machine sales
  • Approved new exemption for non-profits offering direct support services to veterans with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries or their families

Today, Thursday, news began to emerge of an alternative Republican tax plan. Scott Thistle has the story at the Sun Journal (potential pay wall). It is unclear when or if the Republicans will present the plan either in committee or to the public.

The committee will continue to work Friday and this weekend.

AFA Update: Tuesday, May 12, 2015- Preliminary change package votes

This afternoon the AFA committee voted on several items presented in the Governor’s change package.

Audio of today’s brief hearing can be found here.

  • Removal of $10M in debt service for building a new $100M plus Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) building in Augusta
  • A pair of positions in Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS)
  • $600,000 in funding to update the data used in the state’s econometric programs used to forecast revenue
  • Removal of the elimination of 11.5 positions in the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF)
  • Various revenue adjustments following the May 1 Revenue Forecasting Committee (RFC) report
  • Adjusted the funding necessary to host the Maine International Conference on the Arts from 2 years to 1 year, a savings of $70,000
  • Approved sundry positions reorganizations and reclassifications
  • Approved the removal of General Fund (GF) support for the operation of the Maine Charter School Commission(MCSC) ≈$300,000
  • Recognized federal funds awarded to the Maine Health Data Organization(MHDO)
  • Rejected $14.6M in spending for MaineCare Payments to Providers that DHHS feels they no longer need but had requested in the budget
  • Continued one limited-period Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer Supervisor and increased the position to full-time
  • Approved $12,000 in per diem for members of the State Board of Property Tax Review

Appropriations will continue to work tomorrow following session.

AFA Update: Monday, May 11, 2015- Public comment on Change package

Today the AFA committee held a public comment period on the Governor’s change package which was released late last week.

Audio is available here.

The morning featured strong testimony and fierce questioning of the Governor’s plan to defund the State Board of Corrections.

Jay Harper, Superintendent of the River View Psychiatric Center faced similarly intense questioning in the afternoon.

Both hearings probed how the departments plan to use the funds requested in the change package in light of the Administration’s failure to expend funds provided two months ago in “crisis” supplemental budgets.

The committee will continue its work on the change package and the other remaining items all week and through the weekend.

AFA Update, May 9, 2015- Unanimous votes, remaining items and Change Package

Over the past month the Appropriations committee has worked to move the majority of items unanimously recommended by policy committees into the biennial budget.

You can find audio of those deliberations here:

Appropriations Audio  
April 10, 2015 Unanimous voting on unanimous items
April 16, 2015 Unanimous voting on unanimous items
April 28, 2015 Unanimous voting on unanimous items
April 29, 2015 Unanimous voting on unanimous items
April 30, 2015 Unanimous voting on unanimous items
May 1, 2015 Unanimous voting on unanimous items
May 7, 2015 Revenue Reforecast discussion and Change Package presentation

There has been no voting on Taxation committee items, most HHS items remain tabled, significant Education items need to be considered, the disposition of county jails, increased, drug agents, drug courts, drug treatment, drug prosecutors and judges remain undecided and the arming of and reorganization of Forest Rangers is still tabled.

Sheets detailing the tabled items can be found here:

Health and Human Services (HHS)

HHS Language (with AFA votes)

Other Part A initiatives

Here are highlights of the Governor’s change package to the biennial budget:

  • No changes to the tax proposals
  • Recognition of revenue changes made by the Revenue Forecasting Commission in their MAy 1, 2015 forecast
  • FY15 increase of $22M
  • FY16 decrease of ($32.3M)
  • FY17 increase of $3.1M
  • Creation of 2 7-bed facilities to house individuals found “not criminally responsible” (NCR) who do not need the hospital level of care offered at Riverview
  • Using $6.5M in each year currently used to support the operations of County jails to provide recruitment and retention compensation to Department of Corrections Officers.
  • Permit adult offenders up to age 26 to be housed alongside juveniles at the Mountain View Youth Development Center
  • Provide a 4% increase for assisted living PNMI facilities
  • Create an 18 month pilot project within the Department of Corrections to investigate methadone alternatives
  • Includes 2 previously vetoed bills :
  • Rep. Verrow’s motor vehicle excise tax exemption for adaptive equipment
  • Rep. Powers sales tax exemption for nonprofit libraries
  • Includes Rep. Fredette’s bill to provide free college for National Guard members for $1M
  • Initiatives to move the Drinking Water program from DHHS to DEP- This has already been removed from the budget with a recommendation that the Environment and Natural Resources Committee consider the proposal

Materials provided by the Governor include:

Public comment on the change package begins at 10:00 AM on Monday, May 11. The schedule is here.

The committee will be holding work sessions all next week and weekend.

As always you can listen to the committee’s on mic deliberations here.

AFA Update: Tuesday, April 8, 2015- Continued report backs and further votes

The past week has seen AFA take dozens of unanimous votes on the biennial budget in response to the hard work done by the policy committees and represented in their report backs. More committees have presented their reports to Appropriations as well.

Audio and Materials

Date Reports Votes Audio
Tuesday, March 31, 2015 Criminal Justice & HHS Report back Environment & Natural Resources
Marine Resources
Audio
Thursday, April 2, 2015 Criminal Justice

Education

Audio
Tuesday, April 7, 2015 Taxation Health and Human Services Audio
Wednesday, April 8, 2015 Judiciary Audio

Discussion

All the votes taken by AFA were unanimous and nearly every approved item was a unanimous report by the relevant policy committee. Controversial, split items or just items that committee members have further questions on are all tabled for further consideration.

Examples of tabled items include:

  • Anything related to the State Board of Corrections
  • Anything related to the Office of Information Technology and rising IT costs
  • The continuation of positions created by Financial Orders
  • Corrections medical costs
  • The elimination of large numbers of positions
  • Initiatives and language related to General Purpose Aid to local education
  • Support for the Maine Community College System
  • Funding to support some costs of further school consolidation
  • Additional funding for the Maine State Grant Program, which provides scholarship support to Maine students

Schedule

The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry committee will report back at 1:00 PM Thursday.

As the last report backs are presented to Appropriations, the committee will alternate between working on initiatives, caucusing to share their work, meeting in public to gather more information and deliberate and finally to vote.

As always the full schedule may be found here.

Please join us in Room 228 or you can always listen online here.