February 26, 2013

Bill eyed as compromise on Maine revenue sharing

The measure would maintain or boost revenue sharing in the next three fiscal years for cities and towns, bucking Gov. LePage's budget proposal.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

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Roger Katz, R-Augusta

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Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick

The mechanism may seem arcane, but Katz hopes it will help draw broad support by allowing lawmakers to resume full funding of municipal aid while weathering the state's current fiscal struggles.

It's not clear, however, if the plan would produce savings equal to LePage's plan to suspend revenue sharing for two years.

Katz plans to amend his bill to reinstate funding to a program that was designed to encourage communities to share and consolidate services. The amendment appears aimed at appeasing LePage and his Republican allies, who have argued that cities and towns should do more to consolidate services and collaborate with their neighbors.

The Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Local and Regional Services was enacted in 2004 by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci. It awarded several grants, including nearly $500,000 to Lewiston and Auburn, for a high-profile consolidation effort that ultimately sputtered in 2006.

The program hasn't received any funding since 2011, but the governing statute remains.

Katz said that reviving the fund would create an incentive for collaboration rather than a penalty or a state mandate.

"As a Republican, I've always felt the best decisions are made locally," he said. "The further you get away from local government, the more inefficient it becomes. I think revenue sharing is a good, solid Republican principle."

Geoff Herman of the Maine Municipal Association said some cities and towns may have concerns that the ramp-up provision in Katz's bill would become like the state mandate to fund 55 percent of local education costs -- a mandate the state has never met.

However, Herman said, any proposal that "recognizes the importance of this program and seeks to restore and maintain it as it was designed is positive."

A public hearing on Katz's bill has not yet been scheduled.


Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:




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