The Maine legislature has wrapped up its work for the First Regular Session of the 130th Maine Legislature. The session finished by both Chamber’s taking up vetoes by Governor Mills as well as the remaining budgetary bills. The Legislature adjourned around 9:00 PM Monday and will not return until January 2022 unless Governor Mills calls them back for another special session or unless all four major caucuses agree to call themselves back. The Legislature’s adjournment comes nearly a month after the statutory adjournment date.
The First Regular session was ended abruptly by majority Democrats back in March 2021, as part of their effort to pass a majority-only biennial budget. Logistically, this was required so that the budget could go into effect 90 days after its passage, by July 1, 2021. Had the budget been passed in the usual manner – with a two-thirds’ vote – it would have achieved closer examination and broader bipartisan consensus, and it would have become law immediately. This is important because, once again, passage of a critical investment package took center stage at the end of the session.
In addition to a number of vetoes – some of which are important to our members – the final pressing issue of the session was passage of the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, contained in LD 1733, An Act To Provide Allocations for the Distribution of State Fiscal Recovery Funds. This bill represented the Governor’s spending priorities using the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding. In total, Maine received nearly $1 billion from the feds.
Despite the earlier partisan setback with the biennial budget, hopes were raised when the Legislature reached near unanimous agreement in June on a supplemental budget package. The hope was, if they could agree on the supplemental, then the same thing could happen on the ARP funding.
The Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee was divided along party lines on LD 1733, Democrats and Republicans were separated by two issues.
First, Democrats approved $20 million of $40 million to fund the construction of affordable housing projects by contractors that only used Project Labor Agreements (PLAs). PLAs are a contract between the builder, their contractors, and sub-contractors that specify that the workers on the project will be part of a collective bargaining organization, or union shop. Republicans argued that requiring PLAs on these projects will shut out a number of contactors operating in Maine, ensuring the work goes to out-of-state companies, as well as driving up the cost of these projects and resulting in fewer affordable housing opportunities.
Second, Republicans had pressed for an additional $20 million be added to the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund, in addition to the $80 million Governor Mills had already earmarked in her proposal. Republicans argued that the additional monies would help mitigate the next UI trust fund tax increase that was projected for the fall of this year.
In both cases, Democrats and Republicans could not come to an agreement. LD 1733 using a simple majority vote. In doing so, the funds will not be available immediately, and disbursement of the funds will have to wait the 90 days, until mid-October.