The 126th Legislature adjourned sine die, “without day” on May 1st, completing work begun when they first convened in January of 2013. This short session, intended for budget adjustments and emergency legislation, provided GrowSmart Maine with significant opportunities to support smart growth efforts across the state. Here is a brief recap of the 2014 session:
Bonds for Innovation and Job Creation, with an environmental benefit:
GrowSmart Maine supported numerous general revenue bonds during this Legislative session. In the end, several are moving forward and will support Maine’s economy and communities. GrowSmart Maine will be supporting all the bonds approved as they move forward to Maine voters in November.
The economic development bond package was scaled back in final negotiations with the administration. Funding for Maine Technology Institute was removed late in the game, as was funding for the Maine Venture Fund earlier in legislative negotiations. GrowSmart Maine supports both of these programs, given their proven track records in transitioning start-ups to successful commercial ventures in Maine.
These bond proposals were finally passed:
A $12 million bond for small-business: financial assistance through the Finance Authority of Maine to fund two established programs that provide start-up and expansion capital to small businesses. This bond was vetoed by the Governor and the veto overridden in the House and Senate. In a separate bill, the Regional Economic Development Revolving Loan Program (REDRLP) has been updated to allow its use for expanded purposes that now include “revitalize downtowns and build strong communities and a sustainable economy”. The REDRLP is now accessible by additional businesses, including those in commercial and mixed-use real estate and community facilities as well as value-added natural resource enterprises. In addition, businesses with up to 100 employees are now able to make use of this program. These changes are contingent on the funding that would be provided in the Fall 2014 bond proposal.
An $8 million bond to fund efforts by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to assist farmers and forestry.
A $20 million dollar economic development bond to include:
- A $10 million bond to fund a competitive grant program for the development of a biometric research facility.
- A $7 million bond to fund competitive grants to boost the state’s marine economy, including lobster and seafood processing will be on the ballot.
- A $3 million bond to fund biotechnology workforce training and drug research and development.
A $10 million bond to fund various water initiatives, including the construction of culverts to aid fish passage, clean-water systems and conservation work. The bond proposal became law without the Governor’s signature. You can learn more about this proposal at cleanwaterformaine.com.
Historic Preservation Tax Credit
No statewide cap for 2014/2015: A proposed limit on the overall credit allowed in Fiscal year 2015 would have undermined the credibility of this program, which generates scores of Maine jobs each year while ensuring restoration and reuse of historic buildings. A one-year cap also risked crippling projects already completed and put into service based on the promise of these credits. GrowSmart Maine was a leader of a coalition that worked for six months to demonstrate to legislators and the administration the contribution this tax provides to Maine’s communities, economy and environment. Our thanks to all who assisted in this effort and to members and leadership of the Legislature and administration who responded to the information provided and removed this really bad idea from consideration.
Supplemental Budget for 2014 and 2015:
- For tax years 2013, 2014, and 2015, there is no allowable additional deduction for charitable donations above the $27,500 cap on itemized deductions.
- For tax year 2016, donors will be able to deduct an additional $18,000 in charitable donations above the $27,500 cap.
- For tax years 2017 and beyond, donors will be able to deduct the full amount of charitable donations allowable on their federal tax return.
Smart Growth Policies and Projects at a Community Level: As we reported in our January update, GrowSmart Maine led a stakeholder group on LD 1528 with the bill’s sponsor, Representative Richard Campbell of Orrington. The Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted “ought not to pass” on the resolve and instead the Committee Chairs sent several letters, listed below. GrowSmart Maine will monitor progress related to these efforts and report back to the committee, as requested.
- Letters to DEP and Municipal Planning Assistance Program (within the Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry) to encourage a patient sewer extension loan demonstration project with RFP for two such projects that have municipal and developer support.
- Letters to FAME and MaineHousing encouraging them to sign a new MOU to make available an “upstairs/downstairs” financing mechanism so that a project with both housing and commercial use may be eligible for financing from both entities.
- Letter to GrowSmart Maine encouraging further work and collaboration on this subject area and requesting an informal report back to the Committee next fall on how things have progressed with respect to the two above letters and general developments in this area.