On Tuesday, May 28, 2013, the Appropriations Committee unanimously voted in 47 line items into the 2014-2015 General Fund Budget. Included in to the votes are:
• Funding adjustments for benefits provided to retired governors and judges who retired prior to December 1, 1984,
• Flat funding of the Drug enforcement Agency, which will receive funding from the Federal Byrne Grant,
• Elimination of the $1 million to be used for legal representation for the Department of Education and the State Board of Education,
• Increases by $82,000 in the Teacher Incentive Fund grant for the Biennium,
• Transfer of $76,326 from the University of Maine Community Policing Institute to the General Fund Unappropriated Surplus,
• Provides $901,000 over the Biennium for group life insurance benefits for retired teachers,
• Provides $31 million for increased retired teachers health insurance,
• Transfers and reallocates funding of 6 positions within the Department of Environmental Protection,
• Reduces funding by $720,000 for rebates for cost-effective renewable energy provided by Efficiency Maine Trust,
• Provides $228,461 over the Biennium to fund a position in the Governor’s Energy Office,
• Provides $646,961 to Efficiency Maine Trust to reflect transfers from the Public Utilities Commission to Efficiency Maine Trust,
• Reallocates 6 Assistant Attorney General positions and one Legal Secretary position in the drug prosecution unit from 100% Federal Expenditure Fund to 75% General Fund and 25% Federal Expenditure Fund,
• Reorganizes a Secretary Associate Legal position to a Medical Examiner Assistant position to the Chief Medical Examiner
• Establishes 2 limited-period Assistant Attorney general Positions and 6 limited period Research /Paralegal positions established by financial orders to meet the increasing needs of the Child Protection Unit in the Human Services Division in the Attorney General’s Office.
• Provides $200,000 over the Biennium to Pine Tree Legal,
• Provides $1 million to the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services,
• Provides $735,161 in Other special Revenues to the Maine State Housing Authority to address homelessness, rental units for persons with special needs, and repairs for low income substandard housing,
• Eliminated the $10,000 cut each year to client services in the Division of the Blind and Visually Impaired,
• Provides $246,335 each year to the Employment Services program of the Department of Labor
• Funds one Assistant to the Commissioner position in the department of Marine Resources,
• Reduces funding to the Treasurer of State from savings realized by changing the way unclaimed property is advertised,
• Elimination of the $3,046 appropriation to municipalities for BETE reimbursement,
• Approved the cut of $4,500,000 from technology in the Bureau of Revenue Services,
• Transfers $3 million from the Department of Administrative and Financial Services to the General Fund Unappropriated Surplus,
• Reallocates and transfers position s within the Military Training Operations unit within the Department of Veterans and Emergency Management,
• Funds a position in Veterans Services in the Portland Field Office.
Thursday afternoon the committee met briefly to deal with initiatives including the following:
- Accept Language Part DD- allowing flexibility in contracting with staff for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
- Reject Language Part QQQ as the intent is achieved through LD 1019 which protects the personal information of applicants to Malaga Island Scholarships.
- Reject Language Part DDDDD which sought to distribute the duties of the Code Enforcement Training position between several departments.
The committee also unanimously accepted initiatives implementing the temporary suspension of income tax indexing. Finally, AFA rejected a $370K cut to the Maine Center for the Deaf.
Late Friday afternoon AFA took a series of unanimous votes:
- Approved the Governor’s proposed tax on newspapers and periodicals however at the request of the Maine Press Association the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the posting of public notices in newspapers from all levels of government. Instead the Press Association will electronically post all notices for free. They will also offer the Executive branch the same, lower rates, enjoyed by the Legislature.
- Rejected the proposal to seize $600K from the AG for the Governor to hire other legal counsel.
- Accepted initiatives to fully fund the allowed waiver slots under the Section 21 & 29 waivers serving individuals with developmental disabilities
- Provided funding for the Foster Care and Adoption Assistance program for $4.2M in each year of the upcoming biennium
- Providing funds to support smoking cessation
- Rejected language Part NNN directing the Office of Policy and Management to review the provision of indigent legal services
- Approved amended language that fixes the General Fund share of State Police costs at 35%
- Approved an initiative requested by the IFS committee to allow the transfer of funds and positions from Dirigo Health to the Maine Quality Forum. IFS requested $1.2M, AFA unanimously approved $600K
The committee reviewed amendments related to the Public Utilities Commission and the Efficiency Maine Trust. The Republican caucus presented language that seeks to divert tens of millions of dollars in energy related funds to the General Fund, funds from utility ratepayers.
Representative Chase presented a proposal from the Republican members of AFA addressing the Governor’s cuts to municipalities.
Revenue Sharing: they propose restorations of $45M in FY14 and $35M in FY15
Homestead: Retain the current $10K exemption and have the state fund the entire benefit instead of reimbursing the municipalities so entire benefit flows to homeowner
Circuit Breaker: They don’t feel that Circuit Breaker is successful. They support the Governor’s proposal to limit benefit to those 65 years of age or older and reduce eligibility.
Rep. Carey presented a proposal from the Democratic members of the committee intended to address the Governor’s cuts to municipalities. These items were discussed with you at caucus earlier this week.
Revenue Sharing: This proposal flat funds Revenue Sharing with a restoration of $181M
Homestead: Reject the Governor’s changes for a $16M restoration
Circuit Breaker: Reduce eligibility in half (to$40K), saving only $20M of the $73M saved by the Governor’s proposal, highlighting that the Circuit Breaker serves predominantly very low-income people.
The committee had a lengthy discussion about how these differing proposals reflect our priorities.
Rep. Carey forcefully made the point that the Governor’s budget as presented raises taxes.
Sen. Flood presented a proposal, dated January 4, 2013, to institute a statewide property tax of 2% on the holdings of non-profit organizations that own property or equipment in excess of $250K and gross receipts greater than $500K. Excluding churches.
When the committee asked that Dr. Mike Allen of Maine Revenue Services join AFA to answer questions on this proposal they were informed that he would not be available to the committee. The inference is that he is not allowed to attend.
Appropriations will meet throughout the weekend both in caucus and on mic. Expect more discussions like those had this evening.
The full schedule may be found here: http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/schedule_agendas/index.htm
Audio and more
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
You also may watch broadcasts of these and other committee hearings on the Maine Capitol Connection pilot channel through Maine Public Broadcasting. You may watch over the air or through your cable provider as well as online here: http://www.mpbn.net/News/MaineCapitolConnection.aspx
Thank you and please let me know if you have questions.