May 9, 2011
309 Cumberland Avenue
Portland, ME 04101
CONTACT: Kimberly Ballard
Testimony of Lock Kiermaier, Advocacy & Outreach Coordinator for GrowSmart Maine in Favor of LD 769
“An Act to Review the Functions of the State Planning Office”
May 9, 2011
Senator Thomas, Representative Cotta and members of the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government. My name is Lock Kiermaier, and I’m the Advocacy & Outreach Coordinator for GrowSmart Maine. As many of you know from our previous interactions with the committee, GrowSmart Maine is a statewide non-profit membership-based organization working to grow Maine's economy, protect its distinctive character, and enhance our state's quality places. Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine, and the GrowSmart Maine Board have asked me to appear before you to offer our testimony in support of LD 769.
As a part of our commitment to strengthening Maine’s economy, GrowSmart Maine is particularly enthusiastic about well grounded, thoughtful and creative proposals which grow the economy in a sustainable manner while at the same time protecting our state’s unique character. There is a paramount need within the Executive Branch for the development and coordination of statewide policy and planning efforts. GrowSmart Maine strongly believes that the State Planning Office is the appropriate state entity to carry out this function and we strongly support a thoughtful and considered approach to continuing the State Planning Office while at the same time redefining its existing set of responsibilities and duties.
Current Maine law (5 MRSA 3303) establishes the purpose and responsibilities the State Planning Office in the following manner:
There is established to carry out the purpose of this chapter a State Planning Office in the Executive Department, which is concerned with research with research, analysis and the formulation, coordination and management of policy. The State Planning Office is directly responsible to the Governor and serves as an advisory, consultative, coordinating, administrative and research agency as specified in section 3305. The State Planning Office assists the Governor and other state agencies in the development of economic, energy, fiscal and regulatory policy; planning and policy development for the State's natural and physical resources; the identification of issues and problems of long-term significance to the State; and the coordination of state policy and its implementation on issues of interagency concern.
While GrowSmart Maine strongly supports the continued existence of the State Planning Office, we do think that many of the current responsibilities of the office go beyond the scope of an entity that exists to develop and coordinate policy and provide an overview on statewide planning efforts. We believe that responsibilities that have been assigned to the State Planning Office over time have unintentionally resulted in the loss of a sharp focus of purpose and a significant deviation from the policy and planning functions described above. In particular, we question whether the State Planning Office should be authorized to approve and administer a number of programs that might be more appropriately placed within other agencies within the Executive Branch. While we have not necessarily concluded that the office should not be charged with the responsibility to administer certain programs, we think that the current placement of the following functions and program responsibilities warrant a careful and comprehensive review by the Legislature:
· Land For Maine’s Future;
· Approval of municipal comprehensive plans;
· Administer a training and certification program for municipal code enforcement officers;
· Providing technical and financial assistance to municipalities in waste reduction and recycling activities; and
· Being authorized to own, design, develop and operate solid waste disposal facilities.
We suggest that creation of a Task Force charged with reviewing the current scope of responsibilities assigned to the State Planning Office would be a prudent step in evaluating the continued need for the State Planning Office. We would be enthusiastic about participating in such a Task Force and we further suggest that the Task Force be charged with developing a series of recommendations regarding policy and planning responsibilities that should properly assigned to the State Planning Office with additional recommendations regarding the possible redistribution of other more programmatic responsibilities within the Executive Branch.
In closing, GrowSmart Maine would like to reiterate its strong conviction of the need for a State Planning Office that is primarily focused on the development of coordinated policy and planning across all of state government. We respectfully question whether the office is inappropriately charged with a number of programmatic responsibilities and strongly support a careful and comprehensive review of the office.
Thank you for the opportunity to present these remarks. Please contact me with any questions regarding GrowSmart Maine’s enthusiastic support for the concepts outlined in LD 769.
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