AUGUSTA – State officials discussed the possibility of privatizing Maine’s landfills and cutting the positions of five federally funded workers in charge of distributing community service grants during a preliminary meeting Tuesday to reorganize the State Planning Office.

The State Planning Office was created in 1968 to provide the governor and Legislature with policy research and analysis and to aid with long-term planning.

Its current responsibilities include overseeing the Maine Commission for Community Service, waste management and recycling, code enforcement training, land-use planning and economic forecasting.

In recent years, GOP critics have claimed its work is redundant or unnecessary. Now, under Republican Gov. Paul LePage, the office faces an overhaul.

A dozen state officials, led by Darryl Brown, director of the State Planning Office, and David Emery, a former congressman serving in the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, are expected to delegate and eliminate some, if not most, of the office’s duties.

“The governor believes that this process at the end of the day should result in a smaller state government,” said Jonathan Nass, a LePage adviser.

John Morris, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, questioned state ownership of landfills, wondering if it was not something better left to private industry.

Speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said if the state sold the landfills it owns, it would not be able to stop out-of-state waste from coming in.

After the meeting, Morris reaffirmed his support for waste management privatization.

“I still think that’s easily accomplished. If you sell it, you have a contract that says you can’t import radioactive material,” he said.

But a State Planning Office report issued in 2010 said states are banned from dictating what can be brought into landfills unless they own them.

Morris also questioned why the state needed five federally funded employees to distribute federal community service grant money. A State Planning Office staff member said it was likely a matter of delegating authority to the state, which would be more adept at awarding and distributing the money locally.

The committee is scheduled to meet again in about one month.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

[email protected]