Dear House Democrats,
The Committee on Appropriations, in joint session with the Committee on Transportation, heard testimony in regard to proposals in the Governor’s Budget regarding:
Commercial vehicle Excise Tax revenues. Transfers to the Highway Fund, municipal commercial vehicle excise tax revenues amounting to $8.46 million collected from truck tractor owners.
State Police Funding. Adjusts current State Police Funding – 51% General Fund and 41% Highway Fund – to 67% General Fund and 33% Highway Fund.
Enforcement of Vehicle Size and Weight. Provides funding for enforcement of Maine’s truck weight laws.
Turnpike Enforcement. Provides funding to enforce highway laws on the Turnpike.
Motor Vehicle Bureau of the Secretary of State. Provides funding for the Motor Vehicle Bureau within the Department of the Secretary of State.
Purchase of Vehicles for the State Police. Provides funding to finance the purchase or leasing of vehicles for the State Police, which is capped at $2.4 million in principal costs each year, and a financing arrangement not to exceed 3 years.
Callahan Mine. Provides for the transfer of funds from the Unappropriated Surplus of the General Fund in the amounts of $900,000 in FY 2014 and $750,000 in FY 2015 to restore the Callahan Mine.
State Police Funding. The ratio of funding from the General Fund and Highway Fund to support the State Police has changed a number of times over the past several years. Each time, the change in the ratio is based on a study or review of the amount of time and resources that the State Police consume to carry out their responsibilities. The changes are so dramatic at times that it is difficult to determine how scientific or reliable the studies may be.
Commercial Vehicle Excise Tax Revenues from Truck Tractors. The proposal to transfer municipal excise tax collections from this revenue source to the Highway Fund is highly controversial. It is a loss of $8.46 million to municipalities over the Biennium.
Purchases of State Police Vehicles. The major question with respect to this issue is whether Maine is getting the best deal for purchases of vehicles for the State Police.
The portions of the Governor’s budget relating to the jurisdiction of the Transportation committee may be found here.
Department of Transportation
Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, Bruce Van Note, (testimony of Deputy Commissioner Van Note) presented the portion of the Governor’s budget related to the Department of Transportation. He also shared the DOT Strategic Plan and Org Chart.
The committees asked questions regarding funding to complete the cleanup of the Callahan Mine Superfund site and expressed concern over the impact on municipalities of the Governor’s plan to transfer commercial vehicle excise tax revenues from municipalities to the State.
Members of the public expressed their opposition to this transfer.
Some questioned why if the Governor’s goal is to ensure that funds related to motor vehicles only go to the Highway Fund this initiative only transfers $8M not the full $185M of all motor vehicle excise taxes.
Also shared was the Maine Municipal Association Municipal Collaboration Report 2011.
Department of Public Safety
Gregory Couture Assistant to the Commissioner, (testimony of Assistant Commissioner Couture) John Morris, of the Department of Public Safety presented the portions of the Governor’s budget before the committees today.
The Governor’s proposal to adjust the percentage of State Police costs for which the General Fund is responsible to 67% generates a loss to the GF of over $10M.
The committees asked for more information about the revenue from criminal background checks as well as the specifics of the financing arrangements governing the purchase of State Police vehicles.
Jonathan Nass, Senior Advisor to the Governor presented further testimony in support of the Governor’s plan to adjust the GF portion of State Police funding.
John Melrose of the Maine Better Transportation Association testified in support of the Governor’s proposal.
Secretary of State
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap presented testimony (Secretary of State Dunlap’s testimony) describing the portions of the Governor’s budget related to both the Office of the Secretary of State and the Transportation committee. There are no significant initiatives in this portion.
Further Testimony from Wednesday’s Taxation Hearing
Several other towns and businesses submitted testimony yesterday on the items before the Taxation committee.
Tomorrow at 10:00 PM AFA will reconvene and be joined by the Insurance and Financial Services, Judiciary and Energy, Utilities and Technology committees for presentation of the portions of the Governor’s budget concerning Dirigo Health, Professional and Financial Regulation, the Office of the Attorney General, the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission, the Judiciary, Indigent Legal Services , Efficiency Maine, Governor’s Energy Office and the Public Utilities Commission.
The full schedule may be found here.
Please feel free to join the committee as they do their work. You may also listen online using the following link: http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/audio/index.htm
Thank you and please let me know if you have questions.