April 9, 2013

Maine mayors say state must step up as economic development partner

A coalition of Maine mayors Monday released their proposal for the state to borrow $85 million for economic development initiatives

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

Augusta Mayor Bill Stokes, second from left, confers with Rick McCarthy of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group, during a press conference called by the Mayors' Coalition on Jobs and Economic Development, in Augusta on Monday. McCarthy lobbies for the group. Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta and a former Augusta mayor, is sponsoring the $85 million bond package proposal.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, center, discusses a $85 million bond package proposal for Maine cities, during a press conference called by the Mayors' Coalition on Jobs and Economic Development, in Augusta on Monday. At right is Bangor City Council Chair Nelson Durgin and, at left, Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett.

Bennett cited Maine Department of Labor figures indicating private sector job growth in the last three years, resulting in an increase of about 6,000 jobs, as good news for Maine's economy.

At Monday's meeting of mayors, Harnett praised proposals from Katz and other legislators to restore state revenue sharing to municipalities, which would be eliminated by LePage's proposed state budget.

Harnett said losing revenue sharing would cost Gardiner, a city of about 6,000 people, $600,000 a year in revenue. It would shift a huge tax burden onto municipalities and property owners because municipalities will have to raise property taxes to make up for the loss, he said.

Katz, a Republican and a former mayor of Augusta, is the sponsor of L.D. 713, a bill that would restore revenue sharing to municipalities to this year's state budget. Over the next three years, the bill also would return the funding back to 5 percent of state tax revenue.

Katz said the state has raided revenue sharing funds and reduced what goes to municipalities to 3.6 percent of state tax revenues.

"It's so tempting in the Senate to pass our problems on to local property taxpayers, but that's the wrong choice," Katz said. "We've got to come up with other solutions. Everything is on the table at this point."

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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