February Legislative Update

The Legislature is in full swing and GrowSmart Maine continues to engage in key proposals important for vibrant communities, healthy environment and a strong economy.  Much of the legislation we are tracking has yet to receive a public hearing, so at this time we can provide an update on bills discussed in our January update.

Municipal Revenue Sharing: "An Act Related to the Report of the Tax Expenditure Review Task Force", once LR 2727 and now LD 1762, achieved final enactment with very strong votes in both the House and Senate.  This bill fills a $40million budget gap which otherwise would reduce the state’s general revenue sharing to Maine municipalities.  It is unfortunate that the process became politically charged during this time but the outcome is significant.  While GrowSmart Maine supports efforts to increase efficiency and collaboration in all levels of government, forcing immediate cuts in municipal budgets across the state would have severely impaired Maine communities.

Defining a project for historic preservation tax credits:  LD 1661 is still in committee, with a work session set for early next week.  GrowSmart Maine continues to engage in discussions on the issue, which would clarify a rehabilitation project within a very large building or complex, such as a former manufacturing mill.  Our primary focus continues to be supporting the state’s historic preservation tax credit, which has proven to be an incredibly effective tool for  historic preservation as well as community revitalization and economic growth.

Tax Deductible Charitable Donations:  LD 1664 is Tabled in the Taxation Committee, with rather bleak prospects for success in exempting charitable donations from the newly-implemented annual cap of $27,500 for all itemized deductions claimed by Maine residents.  The ability for Maine taxpayers to deduct charitable donations from state income tax is critical to the support of non-profits and the positive impact these organizations have on all Mainers.  Many Mainers are just now becoming aware of this limit for income deductions, a change in tax policy that passed late last year and is effective for Calendar Year 2013 state income tax calculations.

LD 1365, "An Act To Promote New Models of Mobility and Access to Transportation", will soon be reported out of the Transportation Committee, with a unanimous vote of support for amended language.  With the revisions, this bill eliminates the Interagency Transportation Coordinating Committee and replaces it with a larger, more comprehensive Maine Public Transit Advisory Council.  The role of the council is to advise the Legislature and the department regarding strategic planning for public transportation services in the State.

Stay tuned for more information on these and other bills we're tracking in the Maine State Legislature.