Senator Breen, Representative Pierce, and Members of the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs,
We write to express our strong support for the Governor’s Jobs & Recovery Plan (LD 1733), which provides the framework for allocating nearly one billion dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funds that Maine will receive to assist with our economic recovery from the pandemic.
Many elements in the Jobs & Recovery Plan correlate directly with specific recommendations from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and Maine’s 10‐Year Economic Development Strategy. Several elements of the Jobs & Recovery Plan also align strongly with top recommendations in Maine’s Climate Action Plan, Maine Won’t Wait (MWW).
The American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated to Maine have the potential to strengthen Maine’s economy and create jobs in the near‐term, while also providing many long‐term benefits. We particularly support the following items in the Administration’s proposed Jobs & Recovery Plan:
∙ $50 million for State Parks Maine’s State Parks are among our crown jewels for our recreation and tourism economy, but they have become tarnished over the years due to lack of investment. With record visitation numbers during the pandemic, our State Parks are providing Maine people and visitors alike with high value experiences. The proposed $50 million in funding will help keep our State Parks vital through urgently needed capital investment and maintenance projects. The funds will support jobs through repairs of park roads, bridges, shelters, upgrades in plumbing and sanitation facilities, and staff housing.
∙ $21 million for broadband (in addition to the $129 million from the American Rescue Plan Act Critical Infrastructure Fund). We agree that the lack of high‐speed broadband access for communities across Maine has caused significant hardships during the pandemic. These investments in high‐speed internet access will provide benefits for education, health care, and economic development. Maine’s Climate Action Plan also identifies high‐speed broadband as a high priority for achieving energy savings and emission reductions, including by reducing vehicle miles traveled through remote work. (MWW, pg. 44)
∙ $50M for energy efficiency These funds will assist Maine people and businesses in reducing energy bills through investments in energy efficiency and heating and ventilation upgrades. Emissions of carbon dioxide also will be reduced as Maine accelerates efficiency upgrades for Maine homes. We strongly support the proposed allocation of $25 million in funding for low‐income Mainers and renters; $15 million for matching funds to assist municipal, county, school, and community organizations in securing efficiency grants; and $10 million for businesses. These funds will help Maine meet the Climate Action Plan’s goal of doubling the current pace of home weatherization by 2025 and weatherizing at least 35,000 homes and businesses by 2030. This work will support and create hundreds of jobs. (MWW, pg. 11)
∙ $25 million for drinking water and $25 million for wastewater infrastructure We strongly support investments for critical infrastructure improvements in water treatment plants, private wells, and municipal wastewater projects. Maine has significant maintenance backlogs in these areas. The proposed funds will help leverage additional federal funding, while contributing to public health, reducing costs for local ratepayers, and creating construction jobs. The investments in wastewater treatment infrastructure can also help protect shellfish harvesting jobs and tourism jobs that depend on clean coastal waters.
∙ $20 million for protecting infrastructure from climate change: We support creation of a pilot “Infrastructure Adaptation Fund” to support local, regional, and state infrastructure projects that address risks posed by climate change. These funds will help protect at‐risk infrastructure and leverage other public and private funds that benefit public safety.
∙ $8 million for clean energy partnership This initiative will help improve the pipeline of skilled employees who can seek good‐paying jobs in the energy sector, including energy efficiency and renewable energy. Increasing skilled labor in these fields will help advance Maine’s clean energy, climate, and economic recovery goals. We support the multiple initiatives proposed as part of this Clean Energy Partnership and note that Maine’s Climate Action Plan and the report, Strengthening Maine’s Clean Energy Economy, by the Governor’s Energy Office, identified workforce development as a high priority.
∙ $8 million for electric vehicle charging stations and infrastructure We strongly support the proposal that would enable the Department of Transportation to expand state, municipal, and other publicly accessible charging stations for electric vehicles. These funds will contribute toward the high‐priority goal in Maine’s Climate Action Plan of accelerating Maine’s transition to electric vehicles. (MWW, pg. 10)
∙ $7.6 million for habitat and tidal restoration projects We support this funding to pursue shovel‐ready projects identified by the Department of Marine Resources and community partner groups which would improve fish passage, promote salt marsh resilience, and allow greater tidal flow in restricted crossings. These projects will increase fish populations that expand both commercial and recreational opportunities as well as improved public access.
∙ $8 million for DEP licensing and compliance system These funds will be used to develop a new online licensing and compliance system to provide access to DEP data necessary for timely and effective environmental licensing. Development of such a system was endorsed by the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee.
∙ $4 million for DEP business process improvement We support this request for additional technical experts and technology to manage the high volume of land use applications managed by DEP. These funds will help DEP process time‐sensitive licensing for urgent economic development projects.
∙ $1 million to modernize DEP licensing processes These funds will support contracted services for organizational change management and integration of information technology with licensing regulations. The contractors also will help DEP with stakeholder facilitation and rule development in relation to sea level rise and other climate change impacts.
We appreciate your support for these elements of the Jobs & Recovery Plan.
Appalachian Mountain Club
Atlantic Salmon Federation
Bicycle Coalition of Maine
Cleantech Adoption LLC
Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
Conservation Law Foundation
Defend Our Health
Gateway Community Services of Maine
Maine Community Action Partnership
Maine Conservation Voters
Maine Public Health Association
Maine Unitarian Universalists State Advocacy Network
Maine Water Utilities Association
Mook Sea Farms, Inc.
Natural Resources Council of Maine
Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine Chapter
St. John Valley Technology Center
The Window Dressers, Inc
Union of Concerned Scientists
Valley Unified Education Service Center