LePage wants to tax land held for conservation

Good morning from Augusta, where a new bill from Gov. Paul LePage is sure to rankle conservation forces.

The Republican governor’s bill, which is set to be introduced in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, would remove the property tax exemption for land held for conservation or public access by 2017. With less than a month to go before the legislative session’s scheduled end and this being a significant policy change, the bill probably won’t go far in 2016.

But it’ll touch off another conflict between LePage and conservation advocates that he battled for much of the past year when he held up $11.5 million in bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future program.

However, LePage said he’d issue $5 million of them in December and supported a bill to revive the other $6.5 million in January.

Even then, he has talked tough on conservation bonds, saying they drive up property taxes. A 2014 Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling held that land trusts using preserves for charitable purposes don’t have to pay property taxes, and LePage is looking to reverse the law after that decision.

The proposed change also intersects with LePage’s 2015 budget proposal, in which he advocated for taxing nonprofits to offset cuts to revenue sharing. There was little support in the Legislature for that plan, and it was rejected. This plan will probably meet the same fate. — Michael Shepherd

LePage heads to Mexico (the town) for town hall meeting

LePage will be in Mexico today for a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. at Mountain Valley Middle School.

Expect questions on Maine’s paper industry, especially after last week’s announcement that a mill in Madison will close in May, laying off 214 workers. Mexico is next door to Rumford, where the mill owner indefinitely shut down one paper machine in September.

And if the town’s name had you thinking of making a wall joke after LePage’s endorsement of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, show yourself out. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Employees of Maine’s state-run psychiatric hospitals testified Monday in a favor of a bill that would raise the wages of direct care workers. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said it’s aimed at addressing well-documented staffing issues in the system, but Jay Harper, superintendent of Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, said raising wages wouldn’t be the “biggest part of the solution.”
  • Maine’s two U.S. representatives, Democrat Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and Republican Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District, will be at the Maine Fair Trade Campaign’s annual dinner on Wednesday in Augusta.

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • In the “Strictly Platonic” section (which isn’t always platonic), a North Monmouth man says his post isn’t “EXACTLY the proper category” because “I seek a wife and babies.” You’ve come to the right place.
  • This post titled “Mr. Cupcake, it’s over” with the picture of a stuffed cupcake isn’t about a cupcake at all. Actually, it’s sad. “You’re not what I want,” a woman tells Mr. Cupcake. “You’re not who I thought you were nor expected.”
  • We’ll end on a sad note today: Someone in Bucksport is giving away an open bag of guinea pig food because “our very old guinea pig passed away.” Hold your pets close today. — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.