Weekly Democratic Address by House Asst Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan): MAINE NEEDS AN EFFECTIVE CEO

Posted on March 7, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

    REP. MCCABE: MAINE NEEDS AN EFFECTIVE CEO
    LePage’s watch marked by mismanagement and crisis

jeff mccabeGovernor Paul LePage tells us he’s a businessman. He describes himself as a turnaround specialist, as someone who’s got the know-how to make good things happen for our state.

But the reality is that Maine has not fared well under his rule.

Good morning, I’m Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. Thank you for tuning in.

Governor LePage is the chief executive of our state – our CEO, if you will. But I ask you, has he been an effective one?

Maine’s economy has suffered on his watch.

Our state was the worst in the nation when it comes to private sector job growth. More children are living in poverty – the number has grown to one in four Maine children. Families are working harder but making less. And just this week, we learned that Maine lost manufacturing jobs for the third year in a row.

Governor LePage says he knows how to grow an economy. Is this what he meant? Seems to me that this is hardly a record to brag about.

Maine needs real leadership to get its economy moving again. But instead, we’re seeing mismanagement and crisis at every turn.

There’s his $1 million no-bid contract to a political ally – one who didn’t turn in his work in on time and made a huge math error. There’s the federal investigation into his interference with unemployment hearing officers. There’s the document shredding scandal.

And there’s his refusal to work with the Legislature on a state budget – a major part of his job description as chief executive.

And now, Governor LePage is playing political games with our economy again. He is preventing Mainers from working by refusing to release voter-approved bonds.

The governor signed off on bonds that would create jobs and put money into our economy. We’re talking about projects that improve our roads and bridges and help colleges and universities train workers for the jobs of tomorrow.

But then the governor decided to change his mind – even though the money has already started flowing to projects. Shovel-ready projects – like an expansion at Maine Maritime Academy — are at risk. Workers should be putting on their tool belts but now the governor is keeping them waiting in the cold.

What kind of CEO reneges on these kinds of business commitments? What kind of CEO refuses to pay his bills?

I’ll tell you: a bad CEO.

This latest crisis came up after lawmakers from both sides of the aisle came together to keep the state’s funding promise to local communities. This longstanding arrangement gives back a portion of sales and income tax revenue to towns and cities. Revenue sharing helps our local communities pay for services like schools, police and road maintenance while keeping property taxes from spiking.

When he was a mayor, Governor LePage recognized the value of protecting communities and their property taxpayers. But these days, he’s talking out of the other side of his mouth.

The governor claims he’s acting this way because he doesn’t like part of the plan to protect revenue sharing. He’s trying to blame the use of the rainy day fund even though the plan maps out how it would be replenished – and even though he’s used a lot more of it himself in the past.

A few days ago, the governor slammed Democrats for supporting revenue sharing. He seemed surprised to learn than Republicans were part of the overwhelming veto-proof majorities that supported the critical measure to prevent property tax spikes.

It would be kind of funny, if it wasn’t so scary that he doesn’t know what’s going on right upstairs from his office.

Because he knows he lost on revenue sharing, he’s decided to hold bonds hostage.

It defies common sense – and business sense. Maine needs more predictability from its CEO.

Call the governor – your state’s CEO – and tell him to release the bonds so Mainers can get back to work.

Thank you for listening. This is Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan.

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Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Raiding the State’s Rainy Day Fund has Serious Consequences

Posted on March 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Note: Earlier today, Governor LePage held a press conference in his cabinet room “to explain his opposition to Democrats raiding $21 million from the State’s Budget Stabilization Fund, commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund.”. Here is the full video.

Portland Press Herald is reporting that the Governor inexplicably seemed surprised to learn how overwhelmingly the full legislature rejected his position on revenue sharing, as they passed LD 1762, “An Act Related to the Report of the Tax Expenditure Review Task Force” handily:

    Asked Tuesday why he didn’t veto the municipal aid bill, LePage offered conflicting responses, first saying that he expected Republicans would sustain his veto, then stating later that he didn’t know that Republicans joined Democrats to overwhelmingly support the bill in multiple roll call votes.

    “Frankly, I thought they were playing politics,” he said. “I really thought that they were just playing politics. If I vetoed the bill … it would have been sustained by the Republicans and they would have turned and said our governor doesn’t care about the communities, he doesn’t care about property taxes. I didn’t realize that they’d go to the point of legitimately robbing the (rainy day fund). I thought that they’d find some other way.”

    The bill, L.D. 1762, passed the House 120-17 and the Senate 33-2. The margin of support belied Republican opposition to the bill, with several lawmakers saying that they feared a vote against the bill would be used to portray them as not supporting aid to municipalities and used against them in the upcoming election.

    When LePage was told that a majority of Republicans supported the bill, he said, “I didn’t realize they did, actually. Republicans voted for this, too? Then, frankly, I hold the entire Legislature responsible. If they did (vote for it), they did an irresponsible move.”

Perhaps the governor wasn’t kidding when he quipped in January that, “I have no power when it comes to this legislature.”

*RELATED: Maine Legislature Overwhelmingly Pass LD 1762, Restoring $40M In Municipal Revenue Sharing
—————–

Here now is Governor Paul LePage’s weekly address, sent out without embargo.

Audio link here: Raiding the state’s rainy day fund has serious consequences

Raiding the State’s Rainy Day Fund has Serious Consequences

During my career as a businessman, I would never empty a company’s savings account to pay one month’s bills. As Governor, I find the Legislature’s proposal to raid the budget stabilization fund to fill a one-time budget hole both fiscally irresponsible and just plain incompetent. The repercussions will cost Mainers tens of millions of dollars in added interest costs.

lepage sots angry selfHello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

I never imagined Democrats would be so short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible that they would raid the budget stabilization fund and endanger the state’s fiscal status.

This fund is commonly called the rainy day fund. It is a financial reserve that is set aside for emergencies, such unexpected revenue shortfalls or interruptions in normal state operations.

It is not a slush fund for politicians to use when they don’t want to make tough decisions on the budget.

Credit agencies want our state to have a rainy day fund at a minimum of 3 percent of our budget. That would be roughly $180 million. These agencies recommend we have 15 days of cash flow in reserve.

Over the past three years, we have struggled to build it to $60 million. That’s only enough cash to run state operations for 5 days.

Now Democrats have cut our financial reserves by 40 percent and take $21 million from the fund. That would leave 3 days of cash flow to run the state in an emergency.

I have repeatedly warned Democrats that taking $21 million from the rainy day fund would harm our state’s credit rating and increase the costs of borrowing. A downgrade in our credit rating would result in higher interest rates, which could cost tens of millions of dollars. Maine’s taxpayers would have to foot the bill.

For Democrats to put this burden on hard-working Mainers is unconscionable.

That’s why we cannot go the bond market until Democrats replenish the budget stabilization fund to its previous level of $60 million. The decision to sell bonds rests squarely on the actions of Democrats in the Legislature.

We have worked for three-and-a-half years to build up our cash reserves, and we just paid off $490 million in hospital debt. This has greatly improved our state’s financial position. Depleting our already limited financial reserves by robbing the rainy day fund is a big step backwards.

Just as a credit score is of vital importance to the average Mainer, the ratings from credit agencies have very real and very serious consequences for our state.

Democrats do not seem to care about fiscal accountability. They just want to spend every dollar in sight so they can focus on buying votes for the election. Then they can dump their responsibility for balancing the budget on the next Legislature.

Playing politics is one thing. But I cannot stand by and watch as Democrats destroy our state’s credit rating and cash reserves. They may not care if being fiscally irresponsible will have a disastrous effect on our state. I do.

That’s why I will submit a proposal to replenish the state’s budget stabilization fund before we talk about going to the bond market. It’s the right thing to do.

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LePage Reneges on $100M Statewide Maine Jobs Bond Contracts, Day 2

Posted on February 21, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

(Following up on last night’s news: “BREAKING: Governor LePage Reneges On $100M Jobs Bonds; Bounces $59M State Of Maine Check”)

To review, here is the email shared last night:

lepage sots angry self

Neria,
I will not approve going to market until there is $60 MM in the Rainy Day Fund. I will not subject the state to further credit reduction. In the past the Treasurer would keep the Governor updated on cash expenditures, you have chosen not to.

Governor Paul R. LePage

A reminder: LePage accused Douglass last year in June of holding up issuance of the bonds, which was proven false and refused to sign them until the hospital debt was paid. On July 3, the governor shifted the blame for the bond issuance delay onto Democrats and in August, he applauded the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee for approving the bonds package that included $35M to higher education improvements such as Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and Maine Community College System.

In September, Maine Maritime Academy first broke ground on the ABS Center for Engineering, Science and Research- the first classroom facility built on campus in thirty years. From a press release:

“Enrollment at MMA has expanded from 650 to 950 full-time students over the last 15 years. During that time, there has been little expansion of educational facilities on our campus,” said Dr. William J. Brennan, President of Maine Maritime Academy. “The new facility is an investment in our students, in the technology necessary for the specialized education we provide, and in the industry-relevant research our faculty and students are immersed in here on campus.”

The new building will be a hub for joint student/faculty research projects, including low-emissions biofuels development and testing, wind turbine design, tidal and wave hydrokinetic devices, ocean studies research, and many other topics.

In January, construction began on the site:

mma castine abs

Maine Maritime Academy has begun construction of the first academic facility to be built on the college campus in 30 years: the ABS Center for Engineering, Science and Research. The construction process is estimated to be complete in 12 months, with occupancy planned for January, 2015. When complete, the 3-story, 30,000-square-foot building will provide state-of-the-art teaching and research laboratories, classrooms, student study spaces, faculty offices and workrooms in the heart of the campus.

In November, Maine voters approved $4.5 million in state funding to support the public-private partnership to build a new facility. The remainder of the funding needed to accomplish the estimated $14 million project is being raised through generous gifts, pledges and challenge grants from alumni, friends of the college, businesses and foundations.

“With the successful passage of the bond issue and ongoing fundraising efforts we are nearing our funding goals for the project,” said Maine Maritime Academy President, Dr. William J. Brennan. “We are also fortunate to have an experienced construction team from Nickerson & O’Day who are determined, even with the extreme weather since December, to stay on schedule.”

“We are very happy to have a chance to work with Maine Maritime Academy again,” said Karl Ward, President of Nickerson & O’Day, citing student housing construction and renovation projects the company has completed on campus over the past 20 years. “We’re also excited to be a part of advancing the college’s work in engineering and research.”

The new building will be home to renewable energy and ocean energy labs, as well as the new Marine Engine Testing and Emissions Laboratory (METEL), for which the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the Academy $1.4 million to focus on research and development of emissions reductions technologies and engine efficiency technologies for marine and related power plants.

neria_headshot_web_smallEarlier today Maine Treasurer Neria R. Douglass shared a timeline of over 40 pages of compiled communications in a timeline from May of last year to present with the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, detailing the emails between her department, the Governor’s office, and information on the various projects already in process.

When contacted about the news of LePage’s refusal to issue the jobs bonds, Dr. William J. Brennan, President of Maine Maritime Academy, had the following reaction:

“We are not aware that this would affect the bond funding that was approved for Maine Maritime Academy. The State has given us the green light to begin construction on the ABS Center, and the project is underway.”

Bangor Daily News reports that there has been no response yet from the governor’s office:

LePage has said previously said that he would withhold up to $100 million in voter-approved bonds because of a bill passed recently by the Legislature that restores $40 million in revenue sharing to Maine towns and cities that was cut as part of the two-year budget passed by the Legislature last year. LePage proposed last year in his biennial budget bill to cut revenue sharing completely for two years, but the Legislature restored some of that funding over LePage’s objections.

Lawmakers also agreed to seek alternative revenue sources to restore the $40 million revenue-sharing cut in the budget. A task force could not agree on those measures, so Democrats on the budget-writing Appropriations Committee put forth an alternative plan.

That revenue-sharing bill, LD 1762, would take $21 million from the rainy day fund, which currently has about $60 million in it, as well as $4 million from a fund designed to accumulate budget surplus for the purpose of eventually reducing the state’s income tax and $15 million from surging unappropriated revenues. The bill, which had strong bipartisan support in the Legislature, is on LePage’s desk awaiting action.

Today Governor LePage issued a press release through the Maine Department of Labor, which read in part:

Revenue Forecast Flat for FY 2014 and 2015
Budget Balancing Challenges Remain

The Maine Revenue Forecasting Committee (RFC) met today to discuss the spring economic forecast due to the Governor and Legislature no later than March 1, 2014.

The RFC will formally submit its report next week; however, at the meeting today the committee publicly stated that General Fund revenue forecast would remain virtually unchanged since their last update in November 2013.


“Democrats on the Appropriations Committee were unwilling to wait on the Revenue Forecasting Committee’s forecast before casting their votes to raid the State’s limited rainy day reserve fund,”
said Governor Paul R. LePage. “They will now be forced with making tough choices to ensure the State replenishes the reserves to a balance of at least $60 million to try and avoid a bond rating downgrade this spring.”

Which is to say, LePage refuses to budge one iota.

Democrats were quick to point out to media that LePage and the 125th Legislature drew down from the state’s budget stabilization account themselves to cover budget shortfalls created by tax cuts to the rich:

Key Points:

· In 2011, the LePage administration and the Republican-led legislature drew down $27 million from the account to balance its budget, which included a $400 million income tax cut that primarily benefited the wealthy.

· Under the Democratic proposal, LD 1762, the budget stabilization account would simply return to similar levels as in 2012. The proposal temporarily draws down $21 million from the state’s budget stabilization fund often referred to as the “rainy day fund.” It later directs any year-end surplus to replenish the account.

· Democrats drew down funds from the state’s budget stabilization fund to ensure that the State could keep our commitment to Maine towns to help keep property taxes from spiking. The bipartisan bill to blunt municipal revenue sharing cuts prevented a 79 percent cut in the state’s obligation to our communities.

rainy day

(This story is still unfolding and will be updated as necessary.)

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Weekly Democratic Address by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson: Democrats Stood Up For Good Policy, Keeping Promises to Towns

Posted on February 14, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

    DEMOCRATIC RADIO ADDRESS

    Jackson says, “Democrats led on standing up for good policy and doing the right thing by keeping our promise to our towns.”

Sometimes what happens in Augusta, at the State House, seems far removed from what goes on in our communities. But this week, after about a month into the 2014 legislative session, the Maine Legislature moved forward with two major accomplishments—despite Governor LePage’s objections. We kept the state’s promise to fund Maine’s towns and cities; and, we overrode Governor LePage’s veto, in order to feed kids who are hungry.

troy jackson nmtGood Morning. This is State Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash.

As the Senate Majority Leader, I am proud that Democrats led on both of these critically important issues. I am, however, equally proud that many Republicans joined us in standing up for good policy and doing the right thing.

To many of us, ensuring that a kid who is hungry and comes from a poor family gets at least one meal a day during the summer is a no brainer. Especially when the cost of the food is paid for by the federal Department of Agriculture.

While some were trying to decide who to blame for hungry kids, and do nothing; others, including a third of the Senate Republicans and all of the Democrats stood up to this nonsense—and overrode the veto.

As my colleague Senator Lachowicz from Waterville said, “At a time when more families are struggling to make ends meet and more children are hungry, it is irresponsible and unconscionable of us not to do everything we can to make sure children in our communities get fed.”

Feeding hungry kids was not the only area where Governor LePage tried to stand in the way of getting things done for the people in our state.

For weeks, lawmakers have been working together to craft a plan to restore revenue sharing—which are the dollars promised by the state to Maine’s towns and cities to ensure towns can continue providing essential services and keep property taxes down.

Governor LePage has waged a crusade against keeping this promise—starting last year when his budget proposal completely eliminated the program. Lawmakers stood up to that and partially restored funding.

But Governor LePage’s attempts to keep raiding dollars from our towns and cities didn’t stop there. In December, Governor LePage doubled down on his threat to eliminate revenue sharing. He even went so far as to call the very dollars used to keep our police and fire departments operating, “welfare.”

And then, just a few days ago, Governor LePage issued a brand new threat: If lawmakers restored revenue sharing, he would hold back bond investments. This is not the first time he has threatened to hold Maine’s jobs hostage. Remember, he did so for the last three years.

What was peculiar this time, was that a mere 48 hours earlier, Governor LePage touted bonds as part of his economic development plan in his State of the State address. Regardless of the threats, a resounding number of lawmakers—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—stood up to these outbursts and did what was right for our towns across the state.

Even though Governor LePage has said that I can’t count, I can count to $40 million. And based on my math, the Legislature just restored $40 million to our towns. We kept our promise and we did the responsible thing for Maine’s property taxpayers.

Our work is not done—and thankfully we have another few months of session to work.

Before us will be issues like, how can we make college more affordable to Maine families? What kind of investments do Maine small businesses need and want? And what more can we do to keep energy costs down and renewable energy sources more abundant?

But perhaps the most fundamental issue before us will be, once again, standing up to Governor LePage’s political rhetoric and faulty math. We must do everything we can to expand health care for 70,000 Mainers who still do not have coverage. We have a plan—and the costs are picked up by the feds.

The time is now. The people of Maine know it—and many Republicans know that just like with the issues of child hunger and keeping our funding promise to Maine’s towns, expanding health care is the right thing to do.

The Legislature knows that actions speak louder than words. That’s why we have been keeping our promise to Maine people and why we will continue to do so.

Thank you for listening. This is Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. Have a warm and safe weekend.

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Maine Legislature Overwhelmingly Pass LD 1762, Restoring $40M in Municipal Revenue Sharing

Posted on February 12, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee listen to testimony regarding LR 2721 (LD 1762) at public hearing.

Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee listen to testimony regarding LR 2721 (LD 1762) at public hearing.

Yesterday the 126th Maine Legislature took up LD 1762, “An Act Related to the Report of the Tax Expenditure Review Task Force”, which originally passed the House last Thursday by a 114-21 vote on its first reading. The debate at that time was at times contentious, with Republicans divided on the merits of the bill and understanding their votes could have ramifications come November.

LD1762 came up again yesterday first in the House, where a slew of amendments were tacked onto the bill and many GOP members standing to speak in opposition to it. One by one, the amendments were indefinitely postponed. Reactions from House Republicans:

    House Republican Leader Ken Fredette’s floor amendment would task the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management with finding spending reductions to equal the $40 million needed for fiscal year 2015.

    “The tax expenditure task force, which was responsible for closing this $40 million gap and was stacked with liberals, failed to complete its task,” said Rep. Fredette. “OPM, on the other hand, successfully completed its task of finding $35 million in spending cuts. My amendment would give the job to OPM since the majority Democrats and their task force have proven themselves incapable of balancing the budget in a responsible manner.”

    Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) introduced an amendment that would reduce welfare spending as an alternative to raiding the rainy day fund.

    “When I talk about reducing the size of state government, some people like to ask me, ‘what, specifically, would you cut?’ as if I won’t have an answer,” said Rep. Lockman on the House floor. “Well, here’s my answer. Here are 25 million answers. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg that is sinking Maine’s economic ship.”

    Rep. Wayne Parry (R-Arundel) introduced an amendment to give $7 million in property tax relief directly to needy seniors and pay for it with revenue sharing reductions to municipal government.

    “Democrats talk a big game about helping the needy and the elderly, but it’s clear now where their priorities are,” said Rep. Parry.

    Rep. Dean Cray (R-Palmyra) had a very specific spending cut alternative to raiding Maine’s rainy day fund. His amendment proposed eliminating green energy subsidies to replace $14 million in reductions to the rainy day fund.

For some context on the amendments and those offering them:

  • The cuts Rep. Fredette referred to via OPM were detailed in this earlier post from last fall and include cuts such as $1 million for vaccinations and $500k to Head Start, as well as many cuts to the Department of Corrections.
  • Rep. Lockman’s amendment would have taken another $25 million from DHHS’ ever-changing budget requirements. It is very challenging to view his proposal seriously, as he earlier was one of a group of Republicans who, unhappy with the LePage budget and its cuts to revenue sharing, held a press conference at the State House to present their own budget alternative:

    At the 4:00 mark, Lockman discusses new taxes to be levied against Maine’s wealthiest non-profits, but relabels them creatively as “fair share recycling fees”. One wonders how Maine’s largest hospitals and colleges, which top the list of the state’s wealthiest nonprofits, would react to such “fees”?

  • Rep. Parry’s amendment would still not address the municipal shortages of the communities tasked with providing services such as police, fire and public works to the very senior and needy citizens that his proposal was supposedly aimed to help. A reminder: Recently as many as 100 municipalities were represented at a public hearing regarding this bill and spoke of the harm that revenue sharing was doing to their communities.
  • As for Rep. Cray’s offering… let’s just say that “renewable energy” will never be an honest focus of the LePage administration.

Ultimately the original bill passed under the hammer (ie, no second roll call vote) and went immediately to the Senate. And there something interesting happened…

The Senate voted to pass the bill by a 33-2 margin, with the only two voting against, Senators Pat Flood and Dick Woodbury, having already declared that neither was running for re-election. Via Senate Democrat press release, here are statements from some of the members:

    Senate President Justin Alfond: “Towns across our state have financially stretched budgets. They came to us with a problem that needed to be solved. Towns across our state, regardless of political affiliation, wholeheartedly support this measure because they know the state should and must keep its promise. In this business, you have to stand up and be accountable to the property taxpayers of your town. Passing this measure and keeping our promise is the responsible thing to do.”

    Senator Dawn Hill, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee and LD 1762 co-sponsor:
    “Last year we all worked across the aisle to make a promise to our towns; we pledged our best effort. We made a promise to towns to ensure good schools, police to ensure safety, and skilled firefighters. Now is not the time to upend all of that work. Restoring these funds will ensure our towns don’t have to raise property taxes or further reduce essential services like public safety or education, or do both.”

    Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson: “Once again, Governor LePage is threatening to hold Maine’s economy hostage if he doesn’t get his way. Today, the Senate sent a message that we will not be held hostage. We will stand up for our towns and cities and keep our funding promise.”

In December, Governor Paul LePage outraged many by labeling revenue sharing as “welfare” , a position he did not take as Waterville’s mayor in 2009. While LePage has indicated that he would either veto the bill or hold hostage $100 million in voter-approved bonds meant to pay for infrastructure projects were LD 1762 to pass, there has been no word yet from the second floor as to what comes next.

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