Earlier in the week, Democrats in the Maine Legislature indicated they will likely advance a majority budget. A press release issued Monday by the presiding officers of the Maine Legislature and co-chairs of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee states the committee is working to endorse a biennial budget plan by the end of March. The press release stated that the Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) Committee was scheduled to meet to finalize the budget details. The Senate President, Troy Jackson, Speaker of the House, Ryan Fecteau, and the Chairs of the AFA Committee, Senator Cathy Breen and Representative Teresa Pierce said in the release that they plan to, “vote out a smart, responsible biennial budget that pays the bills and funds existing services by the end of the week to provide Maine people, schools and businesses with stability as the economy reopens. Any new initiatives or spending would wait until a future supplemental budget.”
Democrats on the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee used their majority on Thursday to send what they call a “bare-bones” budget to the full Legislature without any Republican support. The budget bill would spend and allocate $8.3 billion over the two years starting July 1. Democrats passed the measure in committee with little discussion, no public hearing, and no Republican votes.
The full Legislature is convening on Tuesday, March 30, on what is likely to be the first two-year budget passed by a simple majority vote since 2005.
The legislature passed a supplemental budget two weeks ago to meet the state’s financial obligations through the end of the current fiscal year, or June 30. Democrats have until April 1 to approve a biennial budget on a simple majority vote.
State government is funded through the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. The state’s biennial budget needs to be approved before July 1 in order to avoid a state shutdown. The difference is Democrats won’t need Republican support to pass a budget that becomes law 90 days after its passage, rather than one enacted as emergency legislation closer to the end of the fiscal year.
By taking this approach, the Democratic majority can pass an initial biennial budget without the support of their colleagues, setting a baseline of state spending. Republicans would have limited bargaining power in future supplemental budget negotiations, where lawmakers would allocate the federal funds Maine receives as a result of the most recent stimulus package passed by Congress.
State aid in the American Rescue Plan is 116 times larger than states’ projected revenue losses, according to the Tax Foundation. Maine state government is set to receive a little more than $1 billion from the legislation.
This week MEMA testified in support of LD 648, An Act To Improve the Lives of Maine Workers by Supporting Apprenticeships That Lead to Good-paying Jobs (Sen. Rafferty, D-York) and in opposition to LD 640, An Act To Ban Single-serving, Disposable Plastic Water Bottles (Rep. Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach)
LD 648, An Act To Improve the Lives of Maine Workers by Supporting Apprenticeships That Lead to Good-paying Jobs
This bill requires the Maine Apprenticeship Program to apply at least 75% of program funding toward apprenticeship programs in which the apprentices earn at least 1.5 times the rate of the minimum wage upon completion of the apprenticeship agreement.
LD 640, An Act To Ban Single-serving, Disposable Plastic Water Bottles
This bill prohibits the sale, offering for sale and distribution for promotional purposes of uncarbonated, unflavored drinking water in containers of one liter or less that are made of plastic, except for the immediate preservation of public health or safety during an event for which a Governor’s state of emergency proclamation has been issued.
Bills of Interest
MEMA reviews and monitors each bill and flags the ones that impact our membership each week. Released as of the last Legislative Update are the following bills. Please be sure to reach out with feedback on any bills that catch your attention.
LD 1256 An Act Requiring Climate Impact Notes on Proposed Legislation and Agency Rules
This bill requires a climate impact note on every rule proposed by a state agency and on all legislation that would have an apparent significant climate impact if implemented.
LD 1279 An Act To Increase the Minimum Wage
This bill increases the minimum hourly wage, starting January 1, 2022, from its present $12.00 per hour to $13.00 per hour and by an additional $1.00 per hour each year until the minimum wage on January 1, 2025 is $16.00 per hour. Beginning January 1, 2026 and every year after, the minimum wage increases by the increase, if any, in the cost of living.
LD 1282 An Act To Prevent Underage Tobacco and Nicotine Access and Use
This bill amends the law governing the age-verification requirement for sales of tobacco products. It also establishes limits on the number of electronic nicotine delivery devices and nicotine liquid containers that may be sold in a single transaction.
Upcoming Public Hearings and Work Sessions
Monday, March 29, 2021
Labor and Housing at 10:00 a.m. (Public Hearing)
LD 182, An Act To Expand the Definition of “Essential Worker” To Include Retail and Food Service Workers (Rep. Paulhus of Bath)
Tuesday, March 30, 2021: House and Senate in Session
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Education at 1:00 p.m. (Public Hearing)
LD 313, An Act To Advance Career and Technical Education Opportunities in Maine (Sen. Woodsome of York)
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Taxation at 9:00 a.m. (Work Session)
LD 179 An Act To Exclude Energy Efficiency Improvements from Property Tax (Rep. Kessler of South Portland)
Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business at 10:00 a.m. (Work Session)
LD 730, An Act To Protect Economic Competitiveness in Maine by Extending the End Date for Pine Tree Development Zone Benefits (Sen. Daughtry of Brunswick)