Maine Retiree Pensions

Appropriations Committee meeting scheduled to consider additional spending


The Maine Legislature announced last week that it will reconvene for a single day on May 10 to respond to Gov. Janet Mills’ vetoes of a small number of bills passed by lawmakers in the waning days of session that ended on April 17. In addition, legislative leadership has indicated that they intend to pass new laws on May 10, and recently, we received confirmation of this plan in the form of a scheduled meeting of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. The meeting will be held on May 7 and will address bills that have been placed on the Special Appropriations Table.

The Legislature’s desire to pass new bills on Veto Day stems from an over $11 million remaining in unallocated surplus following passage of the supplemental budget, which they apparently lost track of and forgot to spend. If left unallocated, this money would go to highway projects and future budget stabilization, but our Legislature wants to spend it now. This is a desperate move by Democratic leadership to assert control and capture more spending before they leave office. Furthermore, much of the legislation remaining on the Special Appropriations Table is absurd and simply wasteful.

One is LD 25, “An Act to Provide Indigenous Peoples Free Access to State Parks.” This bill would provide members of any federally recognized Native American tribe with publicly-funded access to all state parks. If LD 25 applied only to tribes that were from Maine, or only to parks with historic value to tribes, the bill might be more reasonable, but it applies to all parks and all tribes. The Navajo Nation is a federally recognized tribe, and their territory was historically entirely in the southwest. Thus, it makes little fiscal sense to allow a Navajo Nation member free access to all state parks simply because they are Native American. 

Another is LD 669, “An Act to Create the Public Art Fund.” This bill would require the state to spend $5 million creating an art fund to support schools, libraries, and government offices in their ability to purchase art. It may be intended to allow schools and libraries to decorate their buildings, but the language here is far too broad. The bill’s definition of art includes “demonstrations” of “activities” and “performing” a “task.” While being flexible on what is or is not art is an important exercise for college professors, using language this broad is utterly inappropriate when $5 million is on the table. 

Other downright strange pieces of legislation on the Special Appropriations Table include LDs 1858, 1621, and 1929. Respectively, these bills would provide public MaineCcare funding for circumcisions, require evaluation of climate effects along racial lines, and require home building contractors to receive a license to operate. While the first two are clearly absurd, the third is not just unnecessary but dangerous considering the massive housing crisis Maine is suffering from and the extra downward pressure this kind of regulation would put on the housing supply.

While the AFA Committee should not pass any bill from the Special Appropriations Table on Veto Day, there is one piece of legislation that would be better than the other options. LD 2143, “An Act to Exempt from Sales Tax the Sale and Delivery of All Residential Electricity” would do just what its title states. This bill would benefit all Mainers significantly by allowing them to keep millions of dollars that the government would have otherwise taken from them in taxes on top of their electricity bills. If the Legislature were to pass any new laws on Veto Day, it should be this. 

However, passing new legislation of any kind on Veto Day would certainly violate Maine Revised Statutes, Title 3 §2. This law reads, “The times for adjournment for the first and 2nd regular sessions may also be extended for one additional legislative day for the purpose of considering possible objections of the Governor to any bill or resolution…”. 

This statute is why we have a Veto Day in Maine and describes exactly what purpose it serves: for the Legislature to address the governor’s vetoes. That’s it, nothing more. Therefore, the Legislature’s behavior clearly appears to be in violation of this law’s language. However, while the Legislature is behaving illegally, nothing can be done to stop them. All we can do is hope that whatever they end up doing does not deal too much damage, or that Gov. Mills will veto it.