Sunday, April 20, 2014
Big check? The governor will be in Portland Tuesday afternoon to announce his plan to repay the hospitals approximately $186 million the state owes in Medicaid reimbursement.
LePage, who used the hospital debt mantra to great effect during his 2010 run for governor (who could forget the big checks his campaign carted around?), has repeatedly indicated that a proposal was forthcoming and that it will involve using proceeds from changes to the state's liquor contract.
There is no funding provision in the governor's two-year budget proposal. However, Sawin Millett, the governor's budget officer, told the assembled media last Friday that the governor would have a separate funding bill. That's what will be unveiled Tuesday afternoon.
The governor's budget does make some changes to accomodate the proposal he'll unveil on Tuesday, including shifting all oversight of the liquor contract from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.
Spin cycle: Two political motives, two takes on the news that Moody's Investors Service had warned that Maine's continuing Medicaid budget problems could hurt the state's credit rating.
Jason Savage, director of Maine People Before Politics, the political organization supporting LePage, tweeted that the Moody's announcement was proof that "Obamacare mandates / waiver denials put Maine's state credit rating in jeopardy."
Meanwhile, Chris Korzen, head of the political organization Maine's Majority (a.k.a the 61% group), wrote that the news was proof that LePage's "fiscal management may further impair Maine's credit rating."
Another budget tidbit: LePage has previously made it clear that Maine should collect a 5 percent sales tax from digital purchases, such as products from Amazon.com.
Part N of his budget is designed to ensure that those collections are made.
According to Michael Allen, LePage's deputy commissioner of tax policy, the section makes wordsmith changes that make it clear that digital purchases are taxable. Allen said the language is designed to counter challenges by some retailers that the sales tax doesn't apply to digital purchases because they are not considered a "tangible" good in Maine law.
LePage is standing firm on this policy. Last year the administration launched a public service campaign and incentive program designed to remind Mainers that they should be paying sales taxes on good purchased on the Internet. Allen said the campaign, which ended Nov. 30 of last year, yielded $3 million in sales tax collections.
Brunswick deploys lobbyists for tax fight: The town of Brunswick is raising its defenses for its impending battle with the LePage administration over a bill that could determine whether the town can collect property taxes from a tenant at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.
The bill submitted by the administration is designed to clarify the state law that exempts some aviation companies from paying property taxes. Brunswick officials say the bill is designed to tip the scales in favor of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which has threatened to sue the town to ensure that one of its tenants, Kestrel Aeroworks, doesn't have to pay property taxes.
Brunswick announced Monday that it had retained the services of Preti Flaherty to defend the town's interests at the State House.
“The Town Council is fully committed to fighting this bill," Town Manager Gary Brown said in a statement. "If it were to pass, it would overturn centuries of established local control, hinder economic development,and deny Brunswick desperately needed resources to backfill the loss of State funding for education and other critical needs of the Town of Brunswick.
Lobbyist Andy Cashman will be part of the team, according to the release. Cashman has also served as the chairman of the Brunswick Democratic Town Committee.
The announcement underscores the ongoing dispute between the town and the redevelopment agency and the LePage administration. The battle has also become a proxy fight between Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, and former House Democratic speaker and gubernatorial candidate John Richardson.
Gerzofsky has upset some in Brunswick by siding with the LePage administration in the tax dispute. Meanwhile, Richardson, who was involved in the redevelopment agency's failed attempt to bring Oxford Aviation to the base, has said that he sides with the town.
Richardson, recently elected to the Town Council, also told the Times Record last week that he may consider a run for the state Senate. If he does, he'd be gunning for the seat currently held by Gerzofsky, who is not term-limited in 2014.
ICYMI - The governor's budget doesn't mention a tax increase, but some Mainers may see one if his indexing plan is enacted by the Legislature.
And be sure to check out teammate Mike Shepherd's piece on the governor's plan to borrow $100 million for an overhaul of the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.Tweet
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.