April Advocacy Update

The Second Regular Session of the 126th Legislature adjourned late last night, having completed all business presented.  They will reconvene Thursday, May 1st, to consider any gubernatorial vetoes and perhaps other business. 

It has been a successful session for removing barriers to smart growth throughout Maine.  We’ll provide a comprehensive update soon, but for now, here are the highlights of just the past week:

The proposed cap for Fiscal Year 2015 historic preservation tax credit was eliminated:  as you likely read in our “hats off for removing caps” e-blast, this really bad idea has been defeated!  GrowSmart Maine has led in this effort since December, when the concept first surfaced. With the supplemental budget finally approved, we can call this a win for Maine.  This cap would have greatly diminished any sense of certainty for investment in Maine by delaying a portion of the tax credit for projects already completed and certified; projects that likely would not have happened without the tax credit.

Thanks to those of you who contacted your Legislators to ask them to support the comprehensive economic development bond! A $50 million bond package passed in both chambers.

The three bonds GrowSmart Maine supported were incorporated into this package, which passed in both the House and Senate last night. Here’s the specifics:

  •  A $12 million bond for small-business financial aid through the Finance Authority of Maine to fund two established programs that provide start-up and expansion capital to small businesses.
  •  A $10 million bond to fund a competitive grant program for the development of a biometric research facility.
  •  A $10 million bond to fund various water initiatives, including the construction of culverts to aid fish passage, clean-water systems and conservation work.
  •  An $8 million bond to fund efforts by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to assist farmers and forestry.
  •  A $7 million bond to fund competitive grants to boost the state’s marine economy, including lobster and seafood processing.
  •  A $3 million bond to fund biotechnology workforce training and drug research and development.

Redefining “project” for historic preservation tax credits to allow tax credits for phasing or multiple ownership or large properties.  LD 1661 passed out of Taxation with a unanimous report and then successfully moved through both Chambers and was signed into law by Gov. LePage.  LD 1661 removes the permanent $5 million per-project cap on the historic tax credit for either buildings or entire complexes. Instead, the law now provides for an annual $5 million limit per project or complex. Projects that qualify to receive the federal tax credit may apply for additional $5 million in State credits in subsequent years.  Hats off to Maine Preservation and the City of Lewiston for leading this effort.

Removing the cap on charitable donations within the state income tax itemized deductions.  The Maine Association of Nonprofits did a tremendous job in leading advocacy efforts on this important issue.  LD 1664 was amended in the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs, then passed in the House and Senate, with the following changes to charitable giving tax policy:

  • 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.

On the Transportation front, GrowSmart Maine signed on to a SAFE Streets Act letter to Congress, through Smart Growth America.  Stay tuned next week for the release of Dangerous by Design, a report by Smart Growth America highlighting pedestrian casualties.  Maine ranks 44th in the nation, so fairly safe, but perhaps that is because fewer of us walk than in warmer climates.  The report offers an opportunity to discuss the Complete Streets concept of making roads safe for all users. We also met with MaineDOT and offered input as they develop a statewide Complete Streets Policy.