The Appropriations Committee, in conjunction with the Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research, and Development held a hearing on programs within the Department of Labor. These programs include:
- Bureau of Labor Standards,
- Division of the Blind and Visually Impaired,
- Employment Security
- Employment Services,
- Foreign Labor Certification Process,
- Labor Relations Board,
- Maine Centers for Work, Women, and Community,
- Regulation and Enforcement,
- Rehabilitation Services,
- Safety, Education, & Training
- State Workforce Investment Board,
- Workforce Research, and
- The Workers Compensation Management Fund Program.
Blind and Visually Impaired. Members of the Blind and Visually Impaired community are opposed to the cuts in the Governor’s budget, particularly the position of Teacher of the Visually Impaired and the Vision Rehabilitation Specialist. The 125th Legislature struggled to find funding for additional positions, one of which was the Teacher of the Visually Impaired, which the Governor proposes to eliminate. Elimination of this position will place school districts in the precarious position of not being in compliance with federal law. Nationally, there is a very small pool of qualified candidates to teach the visually impaired, and in Maine, the lack of reliable funding makes recruitment of teachers and visual rehabilitation specialists especially difficult.
Maine Center on Deafness. In the recently enacted Supplemental Budget for FY 2013, funding was provided for the Maine Center on Deafness – Civil Rights, which advocates for the deaf and hearing impaired. The Governor’s Budget proposes a $170,000 cut over the Biennium to this same program. Many of the deaf and hearing impaired have testified to the essential services that the Civil Rights section provides to protect their rights.
Foreign Labor Certification Process Fund. The most controversial issue involving foreign labor certification is the authorization of Canadian woods labor to work in the Maine woods industry. While there is an ample supply of Maine woodsmen, Canadian owned wood processors hire Canadian labor. The Maine Department of Labor has often authorized Canadian mill owners to employ cheaper Canadian labor to work in the Maine woods.
Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community. The Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community provide training to women and men to responsibly start and run businesses. Many women and men have benefitted from this training and started their own businesses. The Governor’s Budget cuts $85,000 each year for a total of $170,000 over the biennium in this program. This cut, according to a number of people seriously jeopardizes the ability of this program to provide valuable workforce and entrepreneurship to Maine residents.
State Workforce Investment Board. This is a new board that the Governor proposed. The Governor tried to eliminate Maine’s local/regional workforce investment boards and replace them with one State Workforce Investment Board under the control of the State Chamber of Commerce. The Federal Government rejected the Governor’s plan. The local/regional workforce investment boards provide funds for job training for unemployed workers. The Governor’s State Workforce Investment Board is composed exclusively of state officials, and labor organizations want this Board to have local representation.
Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development (LCRED)
Portions of the Governor’s budget in the purview of the LCRED committee may be found here: Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development (LCED)
Department of Labor (DOL)
Commissioner Jeanne Paquette of the Department of Labor presented testimony outlining the initiatives in the Governor’s budget related to DOL. Commissioner Paquette also shared the Maine Department of Labor Program and Service Guide.
Members of the public presented passionate testimony in opposition to the Governor’s $170,000 cut to the Maine Center on Deafness (MCD). The Legislature rejected a similar cut as part of the Supplemental budget.
The public testified that this cut represents 1/3 of the budget for MCD and will result in the closure of the agency and the loss of 10 jobs.
Other members of the public testified in opposition to the Governor’s plan to make a $500,000 cut to the Competitive Skills Scholarship Program (CSSP). The Administration proposes to use those funds to offset other reductions proposed for the Apprenticeship program. There was also significant opposition to cuts to the Women, Work and Community program.
Yet more members of the public testified in opposition to cuts to the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS)
Commissioner Millett presented testimony in support of the Administration’s proposal to repeal the provision that prohibits the State from charging a rental fee for vending facilities in state-owned facilities that are operated by blind persons.
Workers Compensation Board
Executive Director Paul Signolfi presented testimony to both committees on the initiatives impact the Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB). He also provided an organizational chart.
Friday, March 22th at 10:00 AM AFA will reconvene and be joined by the State and Local Government committee for presentation of the portions of the Governor’s budget dealing with the operations of state government.
Note: The hearings originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 have been rescheduled for Friday, March 29 at 9:30 AM. The public hearing for parts of the budget under the jurisdiction of the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and Marine Resources Committees are scheduled for Friday, March 29 at 9:30 AM. .
The full schedule may be found here.
Public Hearing in Brewer
Monday, March 25, 2013
3 P.M. to 8 P.M.
Jeff’s Catering & Event Center
East/West Industrial Park
15 Littlefield Way, Brewer, ME
The Committee will hear testimony of those initiatives in LR 1046 affecting municipalities including but not limited to: Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement (BETR) Program and Business Equipment Tax Exemption (BETE) Program; Maine Residents Property Tax Refund (Circuitbreaker), Homestead Exemption for Maine Residents, Excise Tax; State-municipal Revenue Sharing; and Language and Initiatives related to General Purpose Aid for Local Schools
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.