Two Democratic representatives who say they’re tired of Gov. Paul LePage’s administration concealing from the public how he wants to pay for a $38 million tax conformity bill revealed Thursday to the Bangor Daily News what they say he has proposed.
The Republican governor’s administration declined to answer questions from the BDN on Thursday about the proposal — including why it hasn’t been publicly released — though it said details had been shared with legislative leaders of both parties.
“Democrat leadership has been briefed by the administration staff as recently as last week,” said LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett. “Democrats have a choice: they may continue to make a mockery of themselves by denying they have details or they may do the right thing, which will demonstrate they have in mind the best interests of Maine taxpayers and businesses.”
Democratic and Republican leaders wouldn’t share LePage’s proposal with the BDN, either. Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said it’s the administration’s responsibility to inform the public how it proposes to spend public tax dollars.
“It’s outrageous that this administration is withholding this information from the public,” he said. “This is not a drop in the bucket, either. It’s $38 million of taxpayer money that’s being hidden.”
But Alfond also declined to make public any details.
Rep. Adam Goode of Bangor, who co-chairs the Taxation Committee, and Rep. Gay Grant of Gardiner, an Appropriations Committee member, said neither leaders of their caucus nor the LePage administration authorized them to talk publicly about the package, which would offset the cost of providing tax breaks to Mainers — mostly small businesses and corporations — which align with tax code changes made late last year by Congress.
On Wednesday, Democrats and one Republican on the Taxation Committee voted to table LePage’s bill, triggering a battle of words between the governor and lawmakers.
“I did not come to this session or to the work session the other day with the intention of holding up conformity,” Goode said. “I want to pass conformity and I think it’s probably in everybody’s best interests to get it passed and passed soon. If the department and the administration would share the sources of funding that they have identified on mic and answer basic questions, it would be done.”
Goode said his information is third-hand from a legislative leader who heard the information from Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen.
Here are a few of the larger chunks of money as explained by Goode:
- $9.5 million from a tax relief fund created in the Republican-controlled 125th Legislature, which is designed to reduce the income tax.
- $6.1 million from the pool of debt service money in the state treasury.
- $13.4 million from personal services, which is money the state uses to hire private contractors.
- $1.4 million in unallocated education money from the casino fund.
- $3 million from a fund reserved to help municipalities consolidate services; and
- $4.2 million from unallocated surplus.
How and whether these expenditures would be enacted would be the responsibility of the Appropriations Committee.
“I’m serving on Appropriations and I don’t want to be making public policy based on rumors coming from the second floor or third floor or [the Department of Administration and Finance] or wherever,” Grant said.
Here’s your tax soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins
The Maine GOP’s welfare-tax referendum may be delayed
We’re approaching the Feb. 1 deadline for 2016 citizen initiative campaigns to submit more than 61,000 signatures to the Maine secretary of state’s office, but we’re hearing nothing from the Maine Republican Party.
Party officials are dodging questions about the status of their proposed referendum to lower income taxes and reform welfare. Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett has called reaching the signature threshold “a daunting task” because the party only got approval to gather signatures in November, but the measure could still get to the 2017 ballot.
On Wednesday, a reporter called and left a voicemail for Jason Savage, the party’s executive director. He texted back to ask about the nature of the inquiry, then said he was in a meeting and “will look to give you a ring soon,” but never did and didn’t return another message on Thursday.
Bennett also didn’t discuss the signature drive with the Portland Press Herald on Thursday, saying the party is still trying to assess whether it got enough. — Michael Shepherd
- Nobody testified against a bill from Sen. David Woodsome, R-North Waterboro, to increase MaineCare reimbursement rates for methadone treatment at a Thursday public hearing, according to the Press Herald. It’s one of the most important anti-drug bills facing the Legislature this session.
- The League of Conservation Voters has launched Facebook ads against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from the 2nd District, hitting him for a vote against the Clean Water Rule. It’s a small campaign, costing just $20,000 for ads against him and other House members. The environmental group endorsed Democrat Emily Cain for his seat earlier this month.
- U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who chairs the Senate Aging Committee, urged a top Food and Drug Administration official to expedite approval for cheaper, generic prescription drugs on Thursday. The committee is investigating drug price spikes. — Michael Shepherd
- Many Maine veterans still waiting for timely health care — Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News
- Old Town mill sold to same group that purchased Lincoln mill — Darren Fishell, BDN
- Emera, CMP join scrum to send renewable power south — Darren Fishell, BDN
- For Mainers aging alone, avoiding isolation can be life-or-death choice — Meg Haskell, BDN
- LePage nominates Saufley to third term as chief justice — Judy Harrison, BDN
- Cruz derides missing front-runner Trump at GOP debate — Steve Holland and John Whitesides, Reuters
- Donald Trump won the debate — Matthew Yglesias, Vox
- Amid denials, state workers in Flint got clean water — Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press
Waka Flocka flames LePage
What a time to be alive and around Maine politics: Rapper Waka Flocka Flame of “No Hands” and “Hard in Da Paint” fame (but the best Waka video is him yelling things without music) tweeted a vulgar message to LePage on Thursday.
There was no context given for the tweet, but it may have something to do with racial remarks from the governor earlier this month.
My first thought after seeing this was if there’s going to be a beef now between Waka and Poetris — the rap alias of LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett.
If there is, you’ll read all about it in the Daily Brief. — Michael Shepherd