June 1, 2013- Voting and discussions on a number of items

Early Saturday evening AFA emerged from caucuses to vote and publicly discuss issues ranging from State Employees, Utilities and Nonprofits.

Voting

The committee unanimously approved items that can be found on this sheet (http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/materials/Biennial_Budget_Unvoted_Initiatives_05-23-13.pdf):

  • Reducing funding for debt service for tax anticipation notes (line 456)
  • Addressing a new actuarial projection for the cost of retired teacher’s health insurance (Line 458)
  • Benefits for retired governors (line 460)
  • Funding for per diem payments to members of Maine Charter School Commission (Line 605)
  • Provided amended funding for contracted court security at $500K/year (Line 1654)
  • A small cut to OPEGA (Line 1674)
  • Positions for the Office of Policy and Management (Line 2054)
  • An amendment offered by Sen. Cain and Rep. Keschl to replace $10M of GF spending on renovation and construction of state facilities with an appropriate use of Maine Governmental Facilities Authority (MGFA) (Lines 1988 & 2016, Part LLLL)
  • A further amendment offered by Sen. Cain to address the urgent needs of the State Archives for both physical and electronic space for the storage of state documents
  • Rep. Carey presented an amendment to clarify the intent of the ACF committee with respect to the Agricultural Fair Support Fund

Discussion

Sen. Flood opened a discussion of the items discussed Friday afternoon.  Beginning with Energy Issues, he withdrew language related to Maine Yankee and the System Benefit Charge.  The issue of carbon credit funds remains to be discussed

Turning to the taxation of non-profits Sen. Flood proposed establishing a working group through the budget to explore the concept given the short time left in this session, withdrawing the initial proposal from consideration at this time.

Sen. Cain opened a discussion on the issues related to State Employees in the budget.

  1. Merit
  2. Longevity
  3. Health insurance

Citing the concerns of the State and Local Government committee Sen. Cain noted the widespread concern about increasing problems with recruitment and retention.  All members of the committee expressed their concern on these issues.  Cuts to the workforce and the lengthy time in which employees have gone without raises were decried. The Republican members of the committee pointed to decreased federal funds and spending as reasons for why raises have not been provided.

Democrats on the committee cited decisions made during the last legislature as creating the shortfall that makes providing raises a challenge at this time. Rep. Sanborn refuted assertions that MaineCare is the reason for the shortfalls in this budget, pointing instead to the tax changes enacted in the last biennial budget.

Sen. Cain reminded the committee that state employees are now responsible for a portion of their own health insurance.  She further spoke to the status of the plan as a model, well run plan that holds employees accountable for wellness.

Rep. Rochelo discussed the tension between continued freezes on merit and longevity when coupled with increased health insurance costs. She raised the danger that he situation can lead to poor health choices due to lack of funding.

Schedule

Appropriations will continue to meet throughout the weekend both in caucus and on mic.

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.

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