Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine in opposition to An Act to Amend the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law to Encourage Housing Construction
March 30, 2023
Senator Grohoski, Representative Perry and Honorable Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Taxation
My name is Nancy Smith and I am the CEO of GrowSmart Maine. We are a statewide non-partisan non-profit organization helping communities navigate change in alignment with smart growth. We advocate for comprehensive policies and funding for smart growth practices and outcomes. It is in that vein that I must oppose LD 341.
We have partnered with Build Maine to guide a transparent crowd-sourcing of policy proposals that began a year ago, and has drawn together over a hundred people from across Maine and beyond. Policy Action 2023 has resulted in sixteen proposals from eight working groups, all addressing this goal, “to address barriers to and create incentives for equitable, sustainable growth and development that strengthens downtowns and villages of all sizes while pulling development pressure away from productive and open natural areas. We do so acknowledging that Maine has urban, rural, and suburban settings for which any solution may/not be a fit and a variety of people who deserve to be welcomed to their communities.” Rep. Ducharme is sponsor of one of the Policy Action 2023 proposals, and we look forward to working with him when that bill is printed. But this bill works in the opposite direction of that goal.
I came to Lincoln, Maine to work as a Forest Technician for International Paper in 1981. I earned my license as a Professional Forester some time later, and worked for a local forest consulting firm while serving in the Legislature 2007 to 2009. From this perspective I can tell you that the purpose of the Tree Growth Tax Law is to ensure forestland is kept for production of wood products. Though there are many other benefits in this voluntary property tax reduction program, it is, at its core, intended to support the natural resource sector by keeping land in forest production. While I appreciate the sponsor’s intention to reduce the cost of converting forestland to single family housing, GrowSmart Maine cannot support it because there is a difficult balance to be struck.
Addressing the housing crisis must be done without undermining the good work to address the climate crisis, and without creating the next crisis of access to forest and farmland.