AFA Update: Friday, May 29, 2015- Amendments, Language and the rejection of Sales tax changes

Today the Appropriations Committee met to discuss several proposed amendments to the budget. In the evening AFA took a series of votes on language pieces including the rejection of changes to the Sales tax, rejection of changes to the Homestead property tax exemption and rejection of the “TV Tax”.

Audio of today’s hearing is here.

Afternoon amendment presentation:

  • Notable proposals included amendments to address housing issues in General Assistance, change the GA reimbursement formula, and create a methadone stakeholder group.
  • You can read all the amendments here.
  • Some highlights from amendments presented by Democrats include:
    • Amendment to address housing issues in General Assistance and prevent homelessness. First part takes $1.5M/yr. of unallocated HOME funds to new Rental Assistance Pilot Program in MSHA, which would mirror the federal Section 8 voucher program. The second part directs $2M/yr. of HOME funds to a new shelter program in MSHA. The governor had original proposed to transfer $12.4M from the HOME fund to the General Fund.
    • Another amendment dealing with GA/housing issues would provide $398K in FY 17 to support Housing First Project, which provides housing for medically compromised individuals with severe mental illness.
    • Amendment that requires the State Controller to transfer $1.3M for OSR account with the DOL to the unappropriated surplus of the General Fund.
    • Amendment to include Adult Family Care Homes, small eldercare facilities that have between to eliminate the 6-8 beds, if the committee choices to do a 4% increase to PNMIs
    • Amendment removes initiative to eliminate facility fee payments, remove cost settlements and creates parity for hospital based physicians.
    • Amendment authorizes $150K in unencumbered balance in DOE to go towards a pilot program for three community schools. Relates to Senator Millett’s bill, LD 956, which will most likely be coming to the special appropriations table.
  • Highlighted Republican amendments include:
    • Amendment would redo the GA formula. Currently the state reimburses 50% of expenditures up to a threshold of .0003 of a municipality’s property tax base and 90% thereafter for remaining expenditures. The governor’s proposal would change the formula to provide a 90% reimbursement up to 40% of a municipality’s 6-year weighted average and then provide a 10% reimbursement thereafter. The amendment would change this by increasing the 40% to 50% of a municipality’s 6-year weighted average. This would slightly increase the amount of money going to GA.
    • Amendment would require that if an applicant for GA is released from jail within 45 days, the municipality where the person resides is responsible for offering GA.
    • Amendment strikes all the governors proposed changes to methadone and creates a stakeholder group.
    • Amendment provides funding for 2 assistant clerk positions to support new District Court Judge positions. AFA has still not voted to appropriate funds for additional District Court Judges as proposed by the governor.

Returning after a dinner break the committee took votes on several language items

Language voting:

  • Part C-1 Sets the minimum age to attend preschool- In Unanimously as amended
  • Part C-2 Eliminates the specific student teacher ratio goal In Unanimously as Amended
  • Part C-3 Amends the statute related to annual transition grants to assist the transition to proficiency based education- In Unanimously
  • Part C-13.5 (A suggestion of the policy committee) to change the distribution of special education funding for minimum receiver districts-Out 11-1
  • Part D- Telecoms tax transfer to the municipalities- Out Unanimously
  • Part F- Homestead changes- The Governor’s plan to eliminate the Homestead property tax exemption for those younger than 65 years of age- Out Unanimously
  • Part H sections 1-41 Sales tax changes including the extension of current rates, the creation of new rates and the base expansion proposed by the Governor- Out Unanimously
  • Part I sections 1-8 Services provider tax increases including the “TV Tax”- Out Unanimously
  • Part L Revenue Sharing- The Governor proposed eliminating Revenue Sharing. The committee amended the proposal to pay municipalities $62.5M per year- In as Amended- Unanimously
  • Part M-1- Governor’s proposed changes to the Cascade- In- Unanimously
  • Part M-2 In Unanimously to change certain references
  • Part M-5 Changes to the General Fund Appropriations Growth Limit- In Unanimously
  • Part M sections 12-13 Changes to the Municipal property tax levies In Unanimously
  • Part M-14 Eliminates the goal of the State’s total state and local tax burden be in the middle 1/3 of all states In Unanimously
  • Part N Allows new Maine Governmental Facilities Authority bonding In 11-2
  • Part P-1 Language to authorize the continuation of all tax expenditures- In Unanimously
  • Part Q sections 1-2 Set the attrition rate at 3% with an exemption for the District Attorneys and with a further change to allow agencies with 50 or fewer employees to be considered for special consideration by the State Budget Officer for attrition matters In Unanimously
  • Part R Allows DAFS to buy motor vehicles In Unanimously
  • Part S Allows DAFS to buy Police Cars In Unanimously
  • Part BB making changes to the Tree Growth Tax Credit program- Out Unanimously
  • Part CC makes changes to the number of foresters- Out Unanimously
  • Part NN lapses $1.5M from the Office of Innovations- In Unanimously
  • Part TT Devastates the Medicare Savings Plan (MSP) and the Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly (DEL)- Out Unanimously
  • Part UU Asset test for the Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly Program (DEL) In Unanimously
  • Part HHH Lowers the reimbursement rate for Critical Access hospitals Out 11-1
  • Part JJJ Sections 1-2 allows the transfer of funds to make payment cycles and acquire Electronic Medical Records (EMR) at Riverview and Dorothea Dix In Unanimously
  • Part LLL Allow IF&W to buy an airplane In Unanimously
  • Part OOO Suspend the “Fiscal Sustainability Program” within IF&W In Unanimously
  • Part EEEE Establishes a parity program in the Department of Corrections to achieve parity between County and State corrections employees. The language is amended to ensure that the funds for this work come from the salary plan and that all direct inmate supervision employees be eligible for this consideration regardless if there is a directly corresponding county position In Unanimously
  • Part HHHH- Creating a nonlapsing account for the purpose of providing tuition benefits for members of the Maine National Guard- Out Unanimously
  • Parts IIII and JJJJJ effects the separation of the Land and Water Quality Bureaus in the Department of Environmental Protection in to two Bureaus In Unanimously
  • Part KKKK Allow the Maine Health Data Organization (MDHO) In Unanimously
  • New Language to create a Remote Nursing Facility Grant program Out Unanimously
  • New Language to create a Vivitrol pilot program- Out Unanimously
  • Part JJ- Moved reconsideration of language allowing the Department of Corrections to accumulate Personal Services Savings for Capital uses- Out Unanimously
  • Frey’s language to ensure that funds appropriated for the remediation of drug manufacture sites that remains unused be returned to the General Fund In Unanimously
  • Katz amendment to create a stakeholder group to create a report on the use of methadone treatment by February 2016 In Unanimously
  • Sanborn’s amendment to require a rate study for Section 65 services to replace the Governor’s cuts In Unanimously
  • Valentino’s amendment the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections continue to disburse funds to the county jails in the event that no other legislation be passed on this issue. If a new solution is found it will supercede this approach In Unanimously

The committee will return to work on Saturday when the building opens at 10:00 AM. You may listen to on mic deliberations here.

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