Budget – Where Things Stand: Many of us were hopeful that a compromise on the two-year budget would have been reached by Friday in order to allow enough time to enact the measure and give Governor LePage his allowed ten days to either sign it into law or veto the proposal. Unfortunately, that did not happen and little progress was made by leadership over the weekend to move towards any resolution.

So, where do things stand? All signs point to the three percent surtax being eliminated. With that being said, the sticky wicket is how much money for additional education funding is needed to get support from 2/3s of members from both chambers and whether or not education reforms must be a part of any negotiated package.

Senate and House Democrats have proposed a figure of $200 million and are flexible in how it's paid for. Senate Republicans are at $110 million and have identified an additional $65 million for Democrats to use to fund their priorities, which could include education funding. The Senate Republican plan would be paid for using existing resources. House Republicans are at $50 million and any plan put forward must include education reforms. The Maine Tourism Association is still urging that an increase in the lodging tax, sales tax, or expansion of the latter not be included as a funding mechanism for any of the above-mentioned plans.

As we enter Monday, we are now in the posture that a state government shutdown could occur even if a budget were enacted today and sent to the Governor. Hold on tight because the next two weeks will be one wild ride.

Tip credit: For those following the progress of reinstating the tip credit, the bill is close to making its way to the Governor’s desk. The House engrossed and enacted LD 673 with the necessary votes for the legislation to go into effect immediately upon the chief executive’s signature. However, the Senate is one vote shy of the needed 24 votes.

The bill is parked on the unfinished business calendar. It will either stay there until additional support is secured to move forward with the emergency preamble, or the emergency designation will be stripped, which delays any change in law until 90 days after adjournment, at the end of the busy tourism season.

Forest City Dam: The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee has given initial approval for the state to take ownership of the Forest City Dam. Last week, the Committee voted 11-1 in favor of LD 1626 so long as there are assurances that FERC jurisdiction ends upon the state acquiring the dam and that Woodland continues to absorb all financial expenses related to operating the dam for a minimum of 15 years.

Should Woodland be sold anytime during the 15-year period, the Majority report requires the new owner to fulfill the remainder of the 15-year obligation; the Minority report requires the new owner to cover all operating expenses for a minimum of 15 years.

The Committee plans to meet soon for amendment review and additional feedback from Woodland on the proposed language.

Maine Tourism Association Advocacy Program.

If you would like additional information, please call Diane Johanson 

623-5646, by cell at 207-897-8077 or email at djohanson@mainetourism.com.