AFA Update- Wednesday, February 25, 2015- Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

Public hearings on the biennial budget progressed from tax matters to issues under the purview of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee (ACF). They joined the Appropriations Committee (AFA) in Room 228 for a full day of hearings.

Audio of today’s hearing can be found here.

While presenting his testimony Commissioner Whitcomb faced intense questioning from both committees and both parties on many issues, chiefly:

  • The proposal to remove a recently enacted surcharge on pet food to support the spaying and neutering of pets
  • The proposal to transfer control of public lands from the Bureau of Parks and Lands to a newly created Bureau of Conservation
  • The elimination of 20 Forest Ranger positions, the change of their duties and the creation of many fewer Natural Resources Law Enforcement Officers.

Part X of the budget eliminates the surcharge on pet food used to support the spay and neuter of animals. Committee members questioned the Commissioner about the need for this $75,000 elimination. The department has no plans to replace these resources and do not plan to use the funds to meet other needs in the department. They simply are opposed to the surcharge.

Rep. Saucier expressed his concerns that the transfer of public lands is part of a larger scheme to open public lands to expanded harvesting.

As the Commissioner presented the Governor’s plan to fire Forest Rangers Rep. Martin asked if the elimination was revenge.

Recently an email from the Commissioner has come to light that strikes an intimidating tone regarding efforts last year by the Rangers to obtain  the authority to carry firearms. That email is below.

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The afternoon allowed for extensive public testimony on these proposals, nearly all in opposition.

Public testimony 1

Public Testimony 2

Public Testimony 3

Schedule

Thursday afternoon AFA will again hold work sessions on LD 236, An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of Health and Human Services and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015 and LD 232 An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of the Attorney General and the Judicial Department for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015.

The full schedule can be found here.

You can always attend hearings and work sessions in Room 228 or listen live here.

AFA Update- Tuesday, February 24, 2015- Monday’s sales tax hearing

Monday- Sales, use and provider tax changes

On the final day of public hearings on the Governor’s proposed tax package Commissioner Rosen presented a plea to consider all of the pieces of the plan as a whole not in isolation.

Audio of Monday’s hearing is here.

Public testimony weighed heavily against expanding the sales tax to goods or services provided by those testifying.

Public testimony 1

Public testimony 2

The proposed rate changes are summarized below.

The proposal expands the sales tax to cover several new items and services including:

  • Recreation and amusement services” is defined in Section H-13; it includes such things as movies, water parks, golf and
  • Installation, repair and maintenance services” is defined broadly in Section H -6, but excludes  services  performed  on motor vehicles  and
  • Personal services” is defined in Section H-9; it includes such things as hair care services, tanning salons, event planning services, and flower delivery
  • Domestic and household services” is defined in Section H-5; it includes such things as interior home decorating services, landscaping services, insect and pest control and
  • Personal property services” is defined in Section H-10 to mean any services performed on tangible personal property, including laundry services, pet services, warehousing and storage, and moving In order to avoid overlapping categories, the definition excludes fabrication services (which are subject to the Service Provider Tax) and installation, repair and maintenance services (which is its own category of taxable service).
  • Professional services is defined in Section H-12 to mean certain specific services, including legal, accounting, advertising, and photographic

 

Schedule

This afternoon the Appropriations committee will conduct a further work session on LD 236, An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of Health and Human Services and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015

As shared with you last night at caucus, the current schedule for AFA is as follows:

Wednesday 2/25- Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry at 10:00 AM and continuing at 1:00 PM

Thursday 2/26- Work session on LD 232 An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of the Attorney General and the Judicial Department for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015 1:00 PM

Monday 3/2-

10:00 AM- HHS committee, non DHHS items

1:00 PM- HHS committee, Public health

Tuesday 3/3-

1:00 PM- HHS committee, Social Services and Public Assistance & Eligibility

Wednesday 3/4-

10:00 AM- HHS committee, Hospitals and physicians

1:00 PM- HHS committee, Elder services & dually eligible members

Thursday 3/5-

1:00 PM- HHS committee, Substance abuse & mental health

Friday 3/6-

10:00 AM- HHS committee, Developmental disabilities and brain injury

1:00 AM- HHS committee, Children’s services & children’s mental health, Payments to providers, departmental administration

The full schedule can be found here.

You can always attend hearings and work sessions in Room 228 or listen live here.

AFA Update: Thursday, February 19, 2015- Property Tax impacts and the Non-profit tax, Also new GPA numbers

Public hearings on the taxation portions of the Governor’s proposed biennial budget continued today with testimony on the elimination if the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement (BETR) program and its collapse into the Business Equipment Tax Exemption (BETE)program, the transfer of the Telecommunication’s property tax to municipalities in the morning and various changes to property taxes including the elimination of the Homestead exemption for those under 65 years of age and the establishment of a property tax on non-profits,

Audio of today’s hearing is here.

New State Education subsidy reports

The Department of Education released the General Purpose Aid to Education (GPA) printouts for your school districts upcoming year today. The figures are based on the acceptance of the proposals in the Governor’s biennial budget and supplemental budgets.  See how your school fares here:

www.maine.gov/doe/eps/

Further testimony

Here is further testimony from yesterday’s hearing on Revenue Sharing.

Public Testimony 3

Public testimony 4

BETR/BETE and Telecoms tax

Commissioner Rosen’s testimony in support of the Governor’s initiatives regarding BETR/BETE and was met by opposition from businesses and municipalities alike:

Public testimony 1

Public Testimony 2

Towns raised a significant concern that exempting property from taxation will have unforeseen impacts on town valuations causing shifts in the distribution of such funds as State aid to education.

Homestead Exemption and Non-profit tax

Commissioner Rosen presented his testimony in favor of the Governor’s proposals to make several changes to property tax programs. Significantly, the elimination of the Homestead Exemption for those under 65 years of age and the imposition of a municipal property tax on non-profits.

Members of the public presented nearly unanimous opposition to the Governor’s proposals citing that Increased property taxes and diminished municipal services would result from the governor’s proposed $6.5 billion budget. A key component of his budget is the elimination of the revenue sharing funds that local communities rely on to pay for vital services like schools, firefighting road maintenance and snow plowing, all while keeping property taxes in check for residents and small businesses.

The LePage administration contends that local communities can make up for some of that lost revenue by making certain large non-profit organizations pay property taxes. But of Maine’s fewer than 500 municipalities, more than 400 would not be able to take advantage of this provision in the governor’s budget, according to an estimate from the Maine Municipal Association.

Public testimony 1

Public testimony 2

Schedule

Hearings on the sales and use and service provider tax portions of the Governor’s budget resume Monday morning at 10:00AM.

The full schedule is available here.

You may listen to the hearing here or join us in Room 228.

AFA Update- Wednesday, February 18- Tax proposal public hearings

This week Appropriations and the Taxation committees have held public hearings on the tax portions of the Governor’s proposed biennial budget. Monday was devoted to changes in the income tax, Tuesday afternoon saw testimony from municipal officials in opposition to the elimination of Revenue Sharing.

Audio of Wednesday’s hearing is available here.

Income tax changes

Commissioner Rosen presented testimony in support of reductions in income tax rates and the elimination of the estate tax.

Several advocates and other members of the public spoke in opposition to these changes.

Below is the statement from the Speaker, Rep. Rotundo and Sen. Valentino on Monday’s hearing.

 

Public Hearing Raises Questions for Democratic Lawmakers Over LePage Budget

 

Tax cuts largely benefit wealthy while sidelining Maine families, education and job training

 

AUGUSTA —  Future investments in Maine families, education, job training, as well as local support for firefighters and public safety are put at risk by the Governor’s $6.5 billion budget.

The strong concerns were expressed by opponents of the budget on Tuesday during the first public hearing on Governor Paul LePage’s changes to the income and estate tax rates.

“We haven’t been getting the the full story about Governor LePage’s budget,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, the House Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “I’m deeply concerned that the ratcheting down of state revenues in the out years will mean fewer dollars in the future for workforce development, education, and many of the very things businesses and workers say we need to succeed. We want a tax reform plan that is paid for now and in the future so we don’t jeopardize our support for Maine families, our schools, or workforce, or for our local firefighters and police.”

During the hearing, members of the public warned the reduction in the $400 million in revenue would result in significant cuts to the state budget, prompting lawmakers to request a six year budget impact analysis from Maine Revenue Services and the Department of Administrative and Financial Affairs.

Members of the public also pointed to other states such as Kansas, where similar tax policies that benefit the wealthy have undercut the economy and critical funding for services.

“I support tax reform but this budget sidelines Maine families at the expense of the wealthy and big corporations,” said Senator Linda Valentino of Saco. “We heard a lot of concerns from people today about the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction, the Homestead exemption, and the property tax deduction. If these deductions are eliminated, it will jeopardize Maine’s economic recovery.”

Lawmakers also requested data and information on the net impact of the budget for Maine families, including the property and sales tax changes.

A recent study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows such policies hurt middle and low income earners.

Public hearings on the tax portion of the Governor’s budget will continue throughout the week.

###

Revenue sharing

Commissioner Rosen presented testimony in support of the Governor’s plan to eliminate Revenue Sharing.

Over 40 municipal officials presented testimony in opposition to the elimination of Revenue Sharing.

Public testimony part 1
Public testimony part 2

The first piece of testimony in the first package of testimony is from former Republican legislator and LePage appointee Ken Fletcher. Fletcher presents a ringing condemnation of the elimination of Revenue Sharing and its drastic impacts on his town of Winslow.

Schedule

Tomorrow the committees reconvene to hear public testimony on the property tax aspects of the Governor’s budget:

  • Changes to BETR/BETE
  • Elimination of the Homestead exemption for those under 65 years of age
  • Property taxes on non-profit organizations
  • Tree Growth

Monday at 10:00 am the public will offer their thoughts on proposed changes to sales and service provider’s taxes.

AFA Update: Friday, February 13, 2015- Supplemental bill work sessions, action on County Jails

Appropriations held work sessions on the following current fiscal year supplemental bills today:

The audio of today’s hearing is here.

LD 234- General operations

Rep. Martin proposed an alternative to Sen. Hamper’s proposal to place county jails into receivership. The language below sets out an interim process where the Department of Corrections will assume responsibility for the joint operations of county jails through June 30, 2015.

LD 234

Rep. Martin Proposed Amendment Amend LD 234 to Add the Following Part:

Part I Sec. I-1. 34-A M.R.S. §1816 is enacted to read:

  1. Interim discharging of the duties of the Board of Corrections. The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, or their designee, is responsible for distributing fiscal year 2014-15 supplemental payments to support county jail operations. The Commissioner or their designee shall also assume the powers and duties of the State Board of Corrections to June 30, 2015.
  2. Administrative Support. The Commissioner or designee may request the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General and other agencies of the State or the counties whenever necessary. The department shall provide administrative support for the operations of the board, including but not limited to filing public notices, taking meeting minutes and recording decisions.

Sec. I-2. 34-A M.R.S. §1803 is amended to read:

  1. Stay of the Powers and Duties of the Board of Corrections. Upon the effective date of this Act, the responsibilities of the members of the State Board of Corrections shall be stayed until June 30, 2015.

Sec. I-3. Appropriations and allocations. The following appropriations and allocations are made.

CORRECTIONS, STATE BOARD OF

State Board of Corrections Investment Fund Z087

Initiative: Provides one-time funding for an anticipated shortfall in fiscal year 2014-15.

GENERAL FUND

All Other

GENERAL FUND                                                                   TOTAL

2013-14                                   2014-15

$0                                            $2,488,000 $0                         $2,488,000

Rep. Martin referred to a request for supplemental funds for this year by county jails. Below is the text of a draft request from the State Board of Corrections for those supplemental funds.

The Board of Corrections is requesting $2,488,000 in supplemental funding for the current fiscal year (2015). The following is a jail-by-jail breakdown of the necessary supplemental funding amount and supporting justification:

✓ Aroostook County jail will require $782,000 to continue operating through June 30, 2015

▪ Cash situation:

o Operating funds will run-out in March 2015;

o The jail does not have any reserve funds to utilize;

o In FY14, the jail required $691,065 in supplemental funds;

▪ Causes of supplemental need:

o Increased inmate population (average 15 more inmates per day);

o Increased over-time costs;

o Increased employee medical costs;

o Increased inmate medical costs;

o Increased inmate food costs;

o Increased utility costs;

▪ Impact of no supplemental funding:

o Jail closure;

  • Approximately 90 inmates needing transfer to another jail or release to the community;
  • Approximately 45 staff laid off;

✓ Cumberland County jail will require $596,000 to continue operating through June 30, 2015

▪ Cash situation:

o Operating funds will run-out in June 2015;

o The jail is already utilizing reserve funds in FY15, and remaining reserve funds are committed for other purposes;

▪ Causes of supplemental need:

o Decreased boarding revenue from federal and state boarders;

▪ Impact of no supplemental funding (see attached letter from Sheriff Kevin Joyce):

o Option 1:

  • Closure of the Community Corrections Center;

o Option 2:

  • Closure of a jail pod holding 86 county inmates, needing transfer to another jail or release;
  • Eliminate six (6) FTE

✓ Penobscot County jail will require $563,000 to continue operating through June 30, 2015

▪ Cash situation:

o Operating funds will run-out in May 2015;

o The jail has approximately $100,000 in an unassigned reserve fund utilized for contingency/emergency capital needs;

▪ Causes of supplemental need:

o Decreased boarding revenue from federal boarders;

o Emergency elevator repair in November 2014;

o Increased inmate population and severe overcrowding (averaging 30 inmates over jail capacity, per day);

o Increased over-time costs;

o Increased pre-trial contract expenditures due to increased population;

o Increased utility costs;

o Increased inmate medical and food costs;

▪ Impact of no supplemental funding:

o Elimination of the regional inmate transportation hub;

o Elimination of pre-trial services contract;

o Layoff of staff;

✓ York County jail will require $396,000 to continue operating through June 30, 2015

▪ Cash situation:

o Operating funds will run-out in June 2015;

o The jail utilized its reserve funds in FY14 and has no remaining reserve funds;

o In FY14, the jail required $149,597 in supplemental funds;

▪ Causes of supplemental need:

o Increased inmate population (averaged 25 more inmates per day);

o Emergency repair of heating system in 2014;

o Increased over-time costs due to short-staffing;

▪ Impact of no supplemental funding:

o Layoff of staff;

✓ Androscoggin County jail will require $151,000 to continue operating through June 30, 2015

▪ Cash situation:

o Operating funds will run-out in June 2015;

o The jail has approximately $22,000 in an unassigned reserve fund utilized for contingency/emergency capital needs

o In FY14, the jail required $99,910 in supplemental funds;

▪ Causes of supplemental need:

o Increased inmate population;

o Increased employee medical costs;

o Increased inmate medical and food costs;

▪ Impact of no supplemental funding:

o Layoff of staff;

Reps. Timberlake and Sirocki raised the possibility of using funds set aside for the eventual construction of a separate women’s facility in Windham as well other capital needs instead of surplus revenues as proposed by the Governor.

It was made clear that the authority being designated is to distribute funds on a short term basis, not to remove programs from individual counties. It was also noted that had the Governor followed the law and made his appointments, this action would be unnecessary.

The committee unanimously approved Rep. Martin’s amendment to LD 234.

In a subsequent motion the committee unanimously approved the entire bill as amended with Rep. Martin’s amendment.

LD 236- HHS

Returning in the afternoon AFA considered the report of the Health and Human Services (HHS) committee on the DHHS supplemental, LD 236. The documents provided are a memo and a vote sheet.

The three major points of discussion and disagreement in the HHS report back were:

  • Riverview Psychiatric Center (RPC) staffing
  • $20M payment initiative
  • $7M sweep from the Fund for a Healthy Maine

Most of the AFA discussion centered on the request for 29 new positions at RPC.  This discussion will be continued at further work session next Wednesday, February 18.

LD 232- AG and Judiciary

The committee held a brief discussion on this bill.  Things that concern members of the committee include:

  • The Governor’s continued refusal to sign financial orders providing for necessary positions and funding at the Office of the Attorney General
  • The Judiciary’s request for significant funds to operate brand new facilities whose costs appear to have not been anticipated in budgets

This bill will receive greater discussion on Tuesday, February 17, 2015.

Schedule

In addition to the work sessions mentioned above public hearings on the tax portions of the Governor’s proposed biennial budget begin on Tuesday next week.

Tuesday afternoon AFA and Tax will hear testimony on the proposed changes to personal and corporate income tax as well as the elimination of the estate tax.

Wednesday afternoon they will entertain the proposed elimination of Revenue Sharing

Thursday morning is slated for changes to BETR and BETE, while the afternoon is given over to property tax proposals.

The full schedule is available here.

You can listen to the hearing here.

AFA Update:Thursday, February 12, 2015- Tax information, supplemental work sessions and biennial public hearings

AFA received some limited information on the Governor’s tax plan. Friday work sessions begin on the supplemental bills followed by biennial budget hearings next week.

Audio of today’s meeting is here.

Tax information

Dr. Mike Allen of Maine Revenue Services presented a portion of the information requested by Appropriations regarding the Governor’s tax plan. Actual incidence reports, necessary to seriously evaluate the impact of the Governor’s plan, will not be available until after next week’s public hearings on these proposals.

The tax families scenarios that were provided do not include property tax impacts, either of changes to the Property Tax Fairness Credit or expected increases in property taxes due to increased pressure at the local level.

Discussing the revenue generated by the proposed changes to the sales tax, Dr. Allen revealed that business-to-business services are not subject to the expanded sales tax, only sales to individuals.

Dr. Allen shared that historically the top 2% of Maine filers (12,000 filers) pay 30% of Maine’s total income taxes.

The incidence/distribution tables MRS will eventually provide will differ from the tax family scenarios due to different methods of calculating income. The scenarios include other than taxable income to estimate ability to pay sales tax etc…

Dr. Allen declined to provide an exhaustive list of proposed items or services to be newly taxed.

Rep Rotundo asked that the committee be provided with information about the impact of the Governor’s proposals on LD 1 limitations.

Schedule

Friday morning AFA returns for work sessions on all of the supplemental bills heard this week. County jails will also be discussed. A new amendment, an alternative to Sen. Hampers plan, is here.

Next week public hearings on the biennial budget begin with tax items on Tuesday morning. The full schedule is available here.

AFA Update: Tuesday, February 10-Wednesday, February 11, 2015- Tax conformity and public hearings and work sessions on supplemental budgets

Appropriations met on Tuesday afternoon for public hearings on supplemental bills- including a proposal on the operation of county jails, and a work session on tax conformity. Supporting materials from DHHS are available at the end of this update as well.  Wednesday held further public hearings and work sessions.

Technical challenges prevented audio recording of Tuesday’s meetings. I apologize for any inconvenience.

Wednesday’s meetings can be found here.

Public hearings on supplemental bills

Appropriations held public hearings on two of the Governor’s FY15 supplemental budget bills.

LD 148 An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of Marine Resources, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Baxter State Park Authority for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2015

You can find the public testimony here.

A work session for this bill, which received no testimony in opposition, is set for this Friday, February 13.

A public hearing was held for LD 234 An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015

Public testimony is available here.

Sen. Hamper has suggested an amendment to LD 234 to place the State Board of Corrections (SBOC) in “receivership” through the end of this fiscal year. County law enforcement turned out in force. Members of the committee discussed alternatives to receivership including the Governor making the appointments to the board as required by law, changes in statute allowing the Presiding Officers to make those appointments, empowering a new Executive Director to make decisions, and empowering the Commissioner of Corrections or Administrative and Financial Services to address these challenges.

No decision was made on Tuesday.

The text of Sen Hamper’s amendment is below:

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine:

  1. 34-A M.R.S. §1001 is amended to read:
  2. Receiver. Receiver means the Receiver of the Board of Corrections.
  3. 34-A M.R.S. §1816 is enacted to read:
  4. Receiver of the Board of Corrections. The Governor may appoint a Receiver of the Board of Corrections when, in the judgment of the Governor, the State Board of Corrections system, for whatever reason, fails to fulfill the goal of sound fiscal management as set forth in §1801 or fails to meet any other purpose or goal in that subsection.
  5. Appointment. The appointment of the Receiver shall be by the Governor alone. The appointment will be effective at the issuance of a proclamation by the Governor.  The Receiver shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
  6. Powers and Duties of the Receiver of the Board of Corrections. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Receiver, once appointed, shall assume the powers and duties of the State Board of Corrections until such time as the Governor terminates the tenure of the Receiver.
  7. Duration of the Tenure of the Receiver of the Board of Corrections. The tenure of the Receiver shall automatically terminate on June 30, 2015. The Governor may, by proclamation, terminate the tenure of the Receiver of the Board of Corrections.
  8. Liability of the Receiver. Except in cases of intentional wrongdoing, the Receiver shall not be liable except in the Receiver’s official capacity.
  9. Power to Make Formal Complaint to the Governor. The Receiver, may make complaint to the Governor pursuant to the Maine Constitution, Article IX, Section 10. This subsection does not limit the eligibility of others to make complaint under that provision of the Maine Constitution. 
  10. Administrative Support. The Receiver may request the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General and other agencies of the State or the counties whenever necessary. The department shall provide administrative support for the operations of the board, including but not limited to filing public notices, taking meeting minutes and recording decisions.
  11. Compensation. The Governor shall set the compensation for the Receiver appointed under subsection 2.
  12. 34-A M.R.S. §1803 is amended to read:
  13. Stay of the Powers and Duties of the Board of Corrections. When a proclamation is issued pursuant to 34-A M.R.S. §1803, the responsibilities of the members of the State Board of Corrections shall be stayed until the termination of the tenure of the Receiver.

Commissioner Richard Rosen also addressed the change in how wastewater is handled at the Dolby landfill in the Millinocket region. The reduced operation has allowed the use of only the secondary treatment facility by remaining consumers, the State and the town of East Millinocket.

Work session for LD 138, Tax Conformity

Following public hearings AFA took up a work session LD 138, the Governor’s tax conformity legislation. (Information on the Public hearing is here.) Answers provided to the Taxation Committee by Maine Revenue Services (MRS) last week are here.

After discussion surrounding the reinstatement of the Maine Capital Investment Credit, Maine’s version of bonus depreciation, the committee voted unanimously to support LD 138 as proposed.

Wednesday hearings

Joined by the Judiciary Committee, AFA held a public hearing on LD 232 “An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of the Attorney General and the Judicial Department for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015″.

Attorney General Mills highlighted the urgent need to fill certain positions, including homicide and child protective prosecutors and Medicaid Fraud Control efforts. Financial orders authorizing the allocation and approval of these initiatives have spent months awaiting the Governor’s approval. Committee members entertained including language in LD 232 to provide this authorization.

Failure to provide the seed money for Medicaid fraud control jeopardizes $900,000 annually. The unit has recovered over $60M from consumers and providers.

Ted Glessner of the Judicial branch presented testimony in favor of the requests for the Judiciary in LD 232. There was significant discussion surrounding the need for additional operational funding for judicial centers.

You can find Gen. Mills testimony and that of others here.

Following that AFA held a Work Session on LD 148 “An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of Marine Resources, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Baxter State Park Authority for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2015. The only amendment was to correct initiative language for a single reclassification. Rep. Sirocki and Rep. Timberlake expressed concern about the reclassification process. After a discussion LD 148 was voted Ought to Pass with only one vote of dissent.

In the afternoon AFA took up Public Hearings for LD 233 “An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management and the Department of Public Safety for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015” and LD 236 “An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of Health and Human Services and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015″. The Health and Human Services Committee joined AFA for the hearing on LD 233. Testimony on LD 233 can be found here.

Commissioner Mayhew presented testimony in favor of the Governor’s supplemental proposals.

That and other testimony can be found here.

The bill has several major provisions:

  • $1.3M for Consent Decree needs
  • Adjustments to align anticipated service provider tax revenue with allocations
  • Several position reorganizations and the establishment of 29 new positions at Riverview Psychiatric Center (RPC)
  • Funding for facility and equipment upgrades to RPC
  • $1.6M for additional needs within General Assistance reimbursement to towns
  • $1.9M to continue funding for Health Homes
  • $1.6M for enhanced primary care reimbursement
  • $20M to replace an initiative intended to save $20M that was not implemented by the Department. Rep. Rotundo asked for information on the alternatives that were explored by the department before not pursuing this initiative as directed by the Legislature.
  • $7.6M from the Fund for a Healthy Maine (FHM) for other purposes. Commissioner Mayhew declined to address this initiative, deferring to Commissioner Rosen of DAFS. Melissa Gott, State Budget Officer, promised more information about this “redistribution” for the work session. The Administration represents these funds as glances in the Fund for a Healthy Maine.
  • $4M to pay a portion of a $9.2M federal audit finding regarding overpayments. The department intends to self-fund the remainder ($5.2M) of the recoupment

Regarding the continued challenges at RPC Commissioner Mayhew spoke to efforts to find a different model for the treatment of forensic patients who do not require a hospital level of care.

Workers from RPC offered their perspective on the Governor’s proposals.

Points they shared include:

  • The need for greater mentoring opportunities among staff
  • Different approaches for renovations
  • Increased emphasis on direct care staff over administrative staff
  • Concerns about poor safety safeguards currently

Addressing concerns about RPC’s outpatient transitional unit Rep. Rotundo asked that the administration provide answers to questions from staff.  Last month there was an incident in which a person was shot by an Augusta police officer at the outpatient center. Acting Superintendent Jay Harper talked about the review that is to follow as a “top to bottom.”

Additional information

Late last week DHHS released a series of “fact sheets” presenting the administration’s case on several biennial budget initiatives.  Below is a list of the topics, the sheets are here.

Brain Injury and OCR Waivers
BRAP
Consent Decree
CAH Reimbursement
Drugs for the Elderly
ED Reimbursement
Fund for a Health Maine
General Assistance
Health Homes
Medicare Savings Plan
Methadone
Nursing Facilities
Physician Rates
Primary Care Reimbursement
Riverview
Section 19 Waiver
Section 21 Waitlist
State Funded Long Term Care
SNAP for Legal Noncitizens
SSI for Legal Non-citizens
TANF for Legal Non-citizens

Schedule

Thursday AFA continues discussion of the Governor’s tax proposal. Friday will see work sessions and likely votes on all supplemental bills discussed this week.

Next week, vacation week is the beginning of public hearings on the Governor’s proposed biennial budget. Income tax initiatives will be discussed beginning on the morning of Tuesday, February 17.

The full schedule may be found here.

As always you may listen live here or find audio recordings of meeting here.