The state budget that passed in June includes the establishment of two task forces that are very important, and potentially threatening, to many of Maine’s businesses, particularly manufacturers.
Tax Expenditure Review Task Force: The first task force was established to identify $40 million in cuts to Maine “tax expenditures.” The $40 million of cuts have already been included as revenue in the state’s two-year budget. If the task force fails to find the $40 million, the state’s revenue sharing to municipalities will automatically be cut by $40 million. Thus, there will be enormous pressure on this task force to find $40 million in cuts. This task force is a major threat to manufacturers and has already held its first of 6 meetings. Some of the costliest tax expenditures are those used by manufacturers. Among other things, the task force will be examining BETR/BETE, sales tax exemptions for manufacturing equipment, raw materials, industrial energy, pollution control equipment, Pine Tree Zones, Maine Capital Investment Credit, High-Tech Credit, New Markets Tax Credits, etc. It will be critically important to make sure that the members of the task force are well educated about the importance of these exemptions and economic development incentives, and what other states do in this regard. Here is a link to the state’s tax expenditure report, which the Task Force is using to formulate its list of cuts. http://media.kjonline.com/documents/tax_expenditure_report_13.pdf
BETR/BETE Conversion Task Force: The second task force was established to study the conversion of the BETR program into the BETE program. While that could be a good thing in the long run, if it is going to happen it must be done in a very well-thought out way that does not cost manufacturers a lot of money during the transition. For example, the Governor had proposed to accomplish this by skipping more than a year of BETR payments in his budget proposal last year. This task force needs guidance from the manufacturing community to assist it in its mission, and to prevent further erosion of the BETR program.
Jon Block, of Pierce Atwood, LLP, has been very involved in these issues for many years and, along with Pierce Atwood’s government relations team, is leading a group of manufacturers supporting a lobbying effort for both of these task forces. Jon is looking for more manufacturers to join this group, so that he has a broad cross-section of the state’s manufacturing community. The costs to participate are manageable since the costs are spread across all of the members of the group. If you are interested in participating, or would like more information, please contact Jon Block.
By Executive Director Patrick Strauch
On July 9, Michelle MacLean texted me that the governor’s LD 1103 veto was sustained and I knew we were finally done with the long session of the 126th legislature. As I’ve mentioned in earlier newsletters, we knew we were in a defensive mode trying to protect the gains made in the 125th legislature, and I can report that we were successful in that effort, but I would never have predicted the path that we would need to take to achieve this success!
- LURC reform remained unchallenged in large part because the UT regions are taking ownership of there planning responsibilities.
- The merger of the ACF department was completed because of the strength of the Natural Resources Network, which worked collaboratively to design and defend a department structure that made sense to practioners. We also successfully pushed back on the Environmental Network that wanted forestry to remain buried in their definition of “conservation.”
- With assistance from the governor we have repositioned the debate about arming rangers into a more methodical and analytical task force process (this in a legislature that was poised to arm teachers!)
- We collaborated with other industry associations to to pass important energy legislation, in effect creating bipartisan agreement on the need to lower Maine’s energy costs.
- We helped members push back on metallic mineral mining act revisions that would have disrupted the current rulemaking process and set back our collective efforts to determine if mining can be conducted in a safe manner in Maine.
- We participated in the debate about wind energy to ensure a fair discussion about zoning, threatened species and visual standards that will transcend to other land uses. We also provided biomass energy with a separate identity and educated lawmakers on the growing importance of wood as a source of energy.
- We successfully submitted legislation that will help us secure a general permit from EPA for the application of pesticides in forest canopies.
- We eliminated several bills dealing with tree growth in the taxation committee, although we anticipate more questions being asked when the MFS presnts there research findings next session.
- We pushed back on revisions to workers compensation and unemployment insurance standards that were accepted by the 125th legislature.
Clearly Michele, Roberta, Pat Sirois and Sue were busy helping me manage the issues, and their assistance when I was absent from the scene while nursing a broken leg provided a dedicated effort on your behalf. Weekly discussions with the Policy Committee, monthly guidance by the Executive Committee and Board all served to ensure success this session.
A lot has been said about Gov. LePage’s outspokenness, but I have to cheer at some of the statements made by the governor in his veto messages. For example, since the days of the gubernatorial campaign ,Gov. LePage has understood the complicated issue of bonded Canadian labor in Maine’s woods and he certainly understood the threat proposed in LD 1103 by linking the lawful use of bonds to landowner penalties in the Tree Growth and forestry excise tax programs. The governor wrote in his veto message:
“This bill is part of a coordinated attack on Maine’s forest products industry. Among other things, it says certain forest land may not benefit from state-supported forest fire protection. I cannot fathom why we would want to leave land vulnerable to forest fires to score political points. Letting land burn will harm loggers, landowners, tourists, sportsman, and countless others. Are political games really worth that?”
The veto was sustained (17 Yeas – 16 Nays- 0 Excused – 2 Absent in the Senate) and I’m appreciative of the governor’s and Republicans’ support on this threatening bill. It can be frustrating to see Democrats who should know better than to play politics with the tree growth program and play loose with the constitution. They know that the Council is for the most part an issues-driven organization, but they also knew that the governor would veto the bill. To rely on a veto during the final day of the legislative session on a dangerous bill is nerve-wracking, and Michele did a good job of holding my hand as we approached the vote.
What does this mean for us in the next legislative session? I know we can continue to successfully defend our industry and navigate the crazy politics of Augusta, but can we move Maine ahead is the real question? Ever the optimists, we will continue to educate legislators as we plan a legislative tour in September and prepare our visionary document of Maine’s future forest economy. We will educate and rally the Legislature around the pending spruce budworm infestation and will turn what was historically the impetus for clearcutting referendums into an opportunity for decisionmakers to better understand our industry and its importance to the future of Maine.
The Governor’s Task Force on Review of Needs, Resources and Opportunities for Efficiency Among Natural Resource Law Enforcement was established May 10, and held its first meeting July 10. The task force will likely meet every two to three weeks with its report due on Dec. 1.
The governor’s charge to the task force was to:
- Develop recommendations for short-term and long-term solutions in addressing the role of Forestry as the lead agency in forest fire suppression and forest land protection (law enforcement), including reviewing the Forest Ranger duties, and mission and their need to carry a sidearm. The Task Force shall review safety questions regarding whether arming forest rangers aids in carrying out their duties or increases personal safety;
- Review and consider opportunities for cross-training and reduction in redundancy among the Maine Warden Service, Maine Marine Patrol, and Maine Forest Rangers;
- Review the core mission of each of the Maine Warden Service, Maine Marine Patrol, and Maine Forest Rangers;
- Review and consider costs associated with proposed changes;
- Consider anything else needed to achieve safety and maximum efficiency among Maine Natural Resource Law Enforcement and the Maine State Police.
The task force is made up of:
- John Morris, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, serving as chairman
- Walt Whitcomb, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Forestry
- Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources
- Chandler Woodcock, commissioner of the Department of lnland Fisheries and Wildlife
- Joel Wilkinson, colonel of the Maine Warden Service
- Joe Fesseden, colonel of the Maine Marine Patrol
- Bill Hamilton, chief forest ranger of the Maine Forest Service
- One representative, Mark Doty, of a large landowner (greater than I0,000 acres) engaged in forest management;
- One representative, John Cashwell, of a small landowner (less than I 0,000 acres) engaged in forest management
- One forest ranger, Jeff Currier, currently employed at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, who is familiar with the concerns shared by Maine forest rangers.
This year’s Maine Forest Products Council golf tournament drew a large group of golfers to the Bangor Municipal Golf Course on July 18th with a total of 132 MFPC members and guests. Deserving thanks for their support are the 55 companies that provided tournament sponsorships towards golf prizes, the 9th hole reception, equipment showings, cart sponsorships, banner sponsorships, hole sponsorships, raffle items and items for the golfers bags. Below you will find all the individual companies who contributed.
The council staff would like to especially thank Brian Flewelling of Key Bank for the tremendous amount of time that he continues to contribute in making this fund raiser a success. There were many attempts for the hole-in one contest sponsored by Varney GMC out of Bangor but the vehicle was not driven home by any of our golfers. Oh, well!! Better luck next year.
- 2nd place gross winners (59): Todd Noyes, Ken Lamond, Bruce Stewart, & Paul Cary
- 2nd place net winners (52): Ed Bearor, Tom Bearor, Jeff Solari and Kevin Gendreau
- 3rd Place gross (60): Joe Pierce, Pete Maher, Seth Berry & Tom Doyle
- 3rd Place net (53): Dave Holden, Ron Roope, Pat Kelly, Bob Strong.
By Executive Director Patrick Strauch
We went into this legislative session knowing we would have to defend the policy advances we obtained in the 125th legislature. Overall I think we did OK with some losses in labor regulations (workers compensation).
Wednesday was the first veto day at this legislative session — a last chance to clean up pending bills, especially those that the governor has rejected. The override of the budget was the big news, but intertwined are a few loose ends that we are watching. And by the way, there’s one more veto day on July 9, so we decided to hold off on compiling the big legislative wrap-up. (NOTE: There will not be a weekly newsletter next Friday, because Patrick and Roberta will be on vacation.)
LD 1302, the mining bill, died between the House and Senate in non-concurrence. This maneuver, orchestrated by Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) defeated the changes proposed in statute and will allow the rule-making process to move forward without additional changes. Stay tuned for the draft rules which may be available by the new year.
LD 1103, attaching bonded labor presence on a landowners operation with the loss of Tree Growth status, was amended in the Senate to include a state mandate clause, due to the complications a municipality will face in administering this law. With the mandate, two-thirds of the House and Senate would need to vote in favor of the provision, which is unlikely. An anticipated veto of this bill may not be needed.
The governor’s veto of the energy omnibus bill that was overridden in an approved amendment that included creating the opportunity for the University of Maine to submit a bid for offshore wind project. While the bill emphasized the need to lower energy costs as a matter of state policy, many of our mill members will benefit from the ability of the state to be involved in gas pipeline infrastructure establishment. Tony Buxton from Industrial Energy Consumers Group was there until the last hour ensuring passage of the bill.
A last-minutes series of Bureau of Pesticide Control bills were introduced as part of the legislative review of major substantive rule changes. The ACF Committee deliberated about how to deal with such a last-minute hearing and elected to carry these rules over into next session. In general, they will allow towns to conduct mosquito control spraying in the event of a human health emergency declared by the Centers for Disease Control.
I think Rep. Craig Hickman, (D-Winthrop) and Rep. Brian Jones (D-Freedom) were concerned about the precedent of the provisional rules being in effect until they can be verified by the Legislature next year. These rules would wave landowner notifications requirements in the event of such an emergency, and this concept is of concern to their constituents.
I’ll be working with Bob Wagner, director of the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources, and Maine State Forester Doug Denico this summer to formulate a budworm management program, so I’m always watching over BPC rulings and the effect they may have on our own emergency pest control efforts.
I’m going to go fishing next week and when I get back I’ll elaborate on the results of the session in the July newsletter. I’ll also keep you posted on the working group examining arming the forest rangers and Roberta will be working on a presentation of our recent forest industry economic analysis. We’ll also be looking for membership help as we plan several legislative tours in the fall.
It’s still possible that mischief might occur on the remaining veto day, but in advance I thank all the members who contributed to this session and helped make it a success.
Every other week the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) does a segment on WAGM called Advancing Aroostook. Jon Gulliver, Director of Investor and Community Relations APP/NMDC, says it’s “just a short 50 seconds on different aspects of economic development or business success stories. In the past we have focused on the growth of the biomass industry in the region, “Education to Industry” initiatives and provided an overview of jobs projections for Aroostook County.”
If some of the photos look familiar, it’s because they were shot on the tour Patrick Strauch, Mark Doty, Roberta Scruggs and LUPC’s Nick Livesay took of the north Maine woods last fall.
Sarah Medina of Seven Islands, who has been keeping MFPC informed about Aroostook’s community guided planning effort forwarded the email below, sent Wednesday by Jay Kamm, senior planner for the Northern Maine Development Commission.
Kamm wrote: “I am pleased to provide you with a copy of the process document developed for the Aroostook County Community Guided Planning and Zoning Project. This process document was unanimously approved by NMDC’s Executive Board of Directors during their June 13, 2013 meeting.
NMDC is now requesting that the document be brought to the LUPC for its review and approval at the July meeting. We believe that this document meets the needs of the region and reflects the basic principles of the LUPC. NMDC looks forward to working with the steering committee and the LUPC on this project.
We would like to thank Alison Truesdale and Frank O’Hara for all of their work to develop the document and facilitate the first three meetings. The process went very smoothly thanks to their expertise.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding this document.” Sarah added that it’s anticipated that the planning committee will be formed in August. Information will be posted at the LUPC website throughout the process.
By Executive Director Patrick Strauch
There were some late nights this week and frayed emotions as the legislature adjourned on Thursday around 2 a.m.
LD 443, a bill to roll back workers compensation changes cleared the House, 81-56, and Senate, 18-16 this week, even though the bill could add tens of millions of dollars to the comp premiums of Maine employers. The bill was sent to the special appropriations table. According to the bill’s fiscal note unofficial estimates indicate the potential increase in premiums across all insured employers to be between $6.4 million and $27.2 million.
The bill, which we strongly opposed along with from the Maine State Chamber and other businesses, would remove a 10-year cap on workers’ compensation benefits for people determined to be “partially incapacitated” and would also change the definition of that designation.
The Maine State Chamber reported in its newsletter that the bill’s passage would result in “dramatically higher costs for Maine businesses.”
It is discouraging to see lines drawn between the parties on such an important issue. Policy pendulums swinging back and forth disadvantage Maine, we need to provide a better vision of how Maine can achieve better prosperity in the natural resource industries (my summer project!) and provide concrete examples of policies that hinder our progress.
- We monitored the efforts by Irving and Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and applauded the defeat of the mining bill, LD 1527, (again the chamber write-up is good). That keeps the opportunity to further examine the possibility of mining in Maine viable. There is no doubt that there will be further debates and information gathering that will inform policy during the rule-making phase of the mining rules. I think the concepts of taking responsibility for the metals Maine uses to establish their standard of life, and the need to leave no stone unturned (pardon the pun) in finding environmentally safe economic opportunities for people in rural Maine have trumped the naysayer approach used by the “environmental community.”
- We are monitoring the ACF merger bill sitting on the appropriations funding table, and anticipate no obstacles to its passage.
- LD 1103, the bonded labor bill, will be sent to the governor’s desk for an anticipated veto. The use of Tree Growth Tax penalties for contractors using legal Canadian labor on a property is clearly wrong, but the issue has become a partisan football. Clearly we have more work to do to help Democrats understand the importance of keeping the Tree Growth program stable and free from the constant threat of revision.
- We were surprised by the governor’s veto of the omnibus energy bill that I think has many important components for our industry. We will keep you posed as this discussion unfolds.
- LD 616, the wind power zoning and moratorium bill was referred back to Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, where it will likely be carried over into the next session.
We will keep you posted as the legislature reconvenes next week to deal with vetoes and the budget. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-622-9288, if you have and questions.
Maine has had plenty of rain recently, but as of May 20, 664 acres already had burned across the state, more than in all of 2012, according to Chief Ranger Bill Hamilton of the Maine Forest Service. Fires caused by arson accounted for 38 percent of all the acres burned. Below is the number of fires and acres burned for the past decade. The spike in 2006 is due to an 860-acre fire Down East, according to Chief Hamilton.
By Executive Director Patrick Strauch
This week continued to be the typical roller coaster of legislative activity. After bills are completed in committee, then proceed to the House and Senate, but the timing of the floor debate depends on the whether the parties have caucused on the bill to attempt reaching a unified consensus or if the necessary votes are in position to ensure greater success. It is a time that drives me crazy, but our lobbyist Michele MacLean seems to thrive on the chaos of determining when a bill will reach the floor.
This week we went into triple sessions — morning, afternoon and night! — in order to deal with the backlog of work. The budget was center stage this week and it passed in the House and the Senate last night. The final votes, 102-43 in the House and 25-10 in the Senate, were just over the two-thirds majority needed to make the budget effective by July 1, the start of the next fiscal year. It remains to be seen if the governor will sign or veto the budget. He had 10 days (not including Sundays) to sign or veto it.
The Senate vote on the merger bill (LD 837) was reportedly linked to passage of the budget, so the merger was approved under the hammer (without debate) just before the budget bill was approved. The environmental community did not protest too loudly after the first House vote last week (93-49) convincingly demonstrated support of the merger.
LD 1103, the bonded labor bill, finally came up Wednesday night. This, of course, was an important issue to Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), and Democrats honored his desire to wield his might in pushing through a bill that is blatantly unconstitutional. However, I was impressed with the lone dissenting voice of Sen. John Cleveland (D-Androscoggin) who stood up and spoke against the measure.
“Cleveland did a fantastic job on the floor debating the bill,” Michele said. “He was very thoughtful in his approach. He clearly had spent an enormous amount of time researching this bill and the first version from the 124th Legislature. He opposed the bill because of its constitutional problems and felt compelled to speak about it on the floor.”
Cleveland’s commanding performance in chairing the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee has been equally impressive and I would encourage the membership to drop him a note and express thanks for his integrity and support. Sen. Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) was also strong in his opposition to the bill, and Sen. Richard Woodbury (I-Cumberland) stayed out of the party politics and voted against the measure based on facts. Never the less, the bill was passed with an 18-17 vote. In the House, there was only a brief debate and the bill was approved 87-57. But we have ensured a veto-proof vote and will petition Gov. Le Page to veto this bill.
LD 1302, the mining bill was approved in the House, but defeated in the Senate (as reported in last week’s newsletter). There have been rumblings of a compromise position being developed by Sen. Tom Saviello (D-Franklin) and Sen. James Boyle (D-Cumberland). We will wait to see if this compromise surfaces, but I believe the vote should stand and we will deal with modifications during the rule-making phase of the mining discussion next year.
Legislative leaders have indicated it is their intention to meet the statutory adjournment deadline of Wednesday, June 19. So the end of the session is in sight (and we’ll provide a wrap-up of all the legislation that affects MFPC members), but we can’t leave the State House until the last legislator goes home!