(UPDATED) Public Responds to LePage FY 2016-17 Biennial Budget (Day 2): Municipal Revenue Sharing
UPDATED: Here is a clip of Bangor’s Ben Sprague providing similar testimony to Appropriations against revenue sharing elimination in 2014.
The 127th Maine Legislature’s Appropriation and Financial Affairs standing committee on Wednesday heard more from the public on the second day of scheduled testimony on the FY 2016-17 biennial budget proposal put forth by the LePage administration last month. Governor LePage and his new Office of Policy and Management (OPM) Director, Auburn Mayor Jonathon Labonte, held a public town hall in Westbrook last week to discuss the proposal.Day 2 was focused on how the proposed elimination of municipal revenue sharing, a hot topic in the last legislative session, would adversely affect local budgets and force towns across the state to either cut services or raise property taxes. Many communities have already had to make drastic cuts due to the previous budget’s 32% revenue sharing slashes.
The following statements were part of a press release sent out by Maine House and Senate Democrats late Wednesday.
Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the House chair of the Appropriations Committee: “The state cannot turn its back on local communities. Today we heard about the devastating impact that the elimination of these funds will have on schools, emergency services and property taxpayers, especially seniors trying to get by on fixed incomes and young families. We owe it to our towns and their residents and small businesses to protect these vital funds.”
Appropriations Committee member Senator Linda Valentino (D-Saco): “We heard repeatedly from town officials across our state that the cuts to revenue sharing are detrimental and miss the mark. We should be looking for ways to reduce property taxes, not shift additional taxes on to homeowners. It was very disconcerting to hear from rural towns about the dire impact revenue sharing elimination would have on their communities since they have nowhere to turn like taxing non-profits as proposed by Governor LePage. No community should have to choose between underfunding and understaffing our public works or police departments in place of rising property taxes.”
Winslow Town Councilor Ken Fletcher, a former lawmaker and LePage’s former energy chief, testified that the elimination of revenue sharing would result in the loss of approximately $940,000 – an amount that is greater that the town’s public works, police or fire budgets. He expressed concern about the increase in the property tax burden that would result from the loss of revenue sharing and the governor’s proposed elimination of the Homestead Exemption for those under 65.
“It is generally accepted that property taxes are the most regressive of the three primary tax methods. Please do not place more of a burden on Maine homeowners by underfunding Revenue Sharing and eliminating the Homestead Exemption,” Fletcher said in his testimony.
“Small rural communities like ours don’t have plush budgets. We don’t have administrators. We have no ‘rainy day’ funds,” Perry First Selectman Karen Raye said in written testimony presented to the committees. “People are angry at their increased property tax bills. This is only going to make the situation worse.”
Here are more statements from municipal employees around the state as reported by various Maine media sources:
- Brownville Town Manager Matthew Pineo: “There is no need to keep playing shell games (referencing LePage proposal to let towns tax large nonprofits). I’m in a poor community. We do not have money. I don’t have any taxable charities in my town.”
Judy East, executive director of the Washington County Council of Governments: ‘There’s already significant regional collaboration on emergency response, dispatch, solid waste management, and there has been for many years. (If revenue sharing is eliminated) Taxes will go up or services will go down. There is no padding left in rural municipal budgets.”
Kathy Littlefield, chairwoman of Waldo (town) Board of Selectman: (Doing away with revenue sharing would be the “final nail in the coffin” for the town of Waldo, which is already grappling with past cuts and rising costs for education, snow removal and other services) “If another partnership, another trust, another promise is broken, there will be no going back. There are just way too many nails.”
Republican Bangor City Councilor David S. Nealley: “Since when do you, as Republicans, talk about taking away from the producers and redistributing the income?”
Vincent Frallicciardi, chairman of the Madawaska Board of Selectmen: (Eliminating revenue sharing would result in the loss of $750,000 and be) “detrimental to our survival.”
Joseph Slocum, Belfast city manager: “Does anyone in here really think these officials aren’t responsive to the concerns of local residents?”
Town of Union employee (name unknown): “Another 10-12 hours of this [hearing] and you’ll feel like my public works drivers.”
Many thanks to Bangor City Council’s Ben Sprague for sharing his testimony.
Sprague via Twitter also provided many quotes from those testifying:
Thursday marks the third day of public hearing, so more to follow.