The Appropriations Committee, in conjunction with the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, held a public hearing on the Governor’s Biennial General Fund Budget that included:
- The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices
- Secretary of State – Elections Bureau
- Department of Veterans and Emergency Management
- Department of Public Safety
- Gambling Control Board
- Licensing and Enforcement
- Liquor enforcement
- Department of Administrative Services
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Lottery Contract
Clean Elections. The Governor’s Budget redirects and transfers $4 million over the Biennium from the Clean Election Fund to the Unappropriated Surplus to balance the 2014-2015 Budget. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court Decision, the Clean Election Fund can no longer provide increased matching funds when privately funded candidates receive and expend campaign funds beyond the funding of clean elections candidates.
Defense & Veterans Services. Maine has a significant veterans’ population, but the Veterans Services Bureau does not have complete information or inventory of veterans in Maine. Many Maine veterans do not realize that they qualify for veterans benefits. There are many veterans – as many as 1,000, who are homeless. Legislation enacted in the 125th Legislature provides for the Department of Defense, Veterans, and Emergency Management to work with DHHS to locate and provide services to veterans.
Department of Public Safety – Liquor Enforcement. The Governor’s Budget transfers liquor enforcement from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. Since the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations is part of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, there is a question concerning the Department’s role as being both a regulator and an enforcement agency of the liquor industry.
Veterans and Legal Affairs (VLA)
Portions of the Governor’s budget in the purview of the VLA committee may be found here: Veterans and Legal Affairs (VLA)
Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices
The Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Kathleen Newman, presented the Governor’s case for eliminating funding for the Maine Clean Elections System in the next biennium.
Newman was followed by Jonathan Wayne, Executive Director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics. Director Wayne presented testimony outlining the status of the Commission and legislative participation in the Maine Clean Elections System. Director Wayne also presented information about the $10.8M transferred from the Maine Clean Elections Fund in the past ten years and the $5.6M returned to the Fund since 2005.
Members of the public presented a great deal of testimony in opposition to the Governor’s plan to eliminate Clean Elections funding. Two arguments predominated:
- · In a poll, 70% of all women who ran for office said clean elections was most important for their decision, and 13% said that it was an important factor for a total of 83% who state it is an important factor.
- · There was also testimony that the U.S. Supreme Court decision shows that money and special interests speak louder and have more clout than ordinary citizens.
Department of the Secretary of State (SOS)
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap presented testimony regarding the portions of the Governor’s budget impacting the SOS Elections and Commissions. The Secretary requested a further initiative to transfer 1.5 positions back from the Federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) fund to the General Fund where they originated.
Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management (DEVM)
Adjutant General and Commissioner James Campbell of DEVM presented testimony in support of the initiatives in the Governor’s budget related to DEVM. In response to questioning, General Campbell noted that each initiative brought forward was recommended by the Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB) initiative.
According to the General, the federal Sequester will also represent a 20% loss of paid work days to some staff and a reduction of flight time from 150 hours to 60 hours.
Department of Public Safety (DPS)
Assistant to the Commissioner of Public Safety, Gregory Couture presented testimony regarding the Gambling Control Board, Licensing and Enforcement and Liquor Enforcement. Committee members expressed concern over the Governor’s plan to relocate Liquor Enforcement from DPS to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage and Lottery Operations (BABLO.)
Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage and Lottery Operations (BABLO)
Gerry Reid, Director of BABLO presented testimony on his Bureau. Questioning centered on the status of the lottery operations contract which according to Reid has been open since 2011.
News reports show that the contract has been in dispute since late 2010.
The services continue to be provided by Scientific Games. Director Reid noted that an extension of the current arrangement will save the state $3.2M.
Additional Testimony on Education
You may find additional testimony from Monday’s hearing on Education here.
Thursday, March 21th at 10:00 PM AFA will reconvene and be joined by the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development committee for presentation of the portions of the Governor’s budget dealing with Department of Labor and Worker’s Compensation.
Note: The hearings originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 will be rescheduled. The public hearing for parts of the budget under the jurisdiction of the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and Marine Resources Committees will be rescheduled.
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.