Republicans Submit Measure to Bail Out Portland Merchants and Consumers
Augusta – Republicans in the Legislature have stepped up to help the city of Portland avoid additional confusion and taxes when the city’s self-imposed fee on paper and plastic bags goes into effect next week.
Portland’s City Council voted to implement a surcharge on paper and plastic bags that will take effect this April 15th. LD 590, “An Act To Exempt a Fee for a Paper or Plastic Single-use Carry-out Bag from Tax,” is sponsored by Senator Tom Saviello (R-Franklin), and co-sponsored by several other Republican Senators and Representatives. The bill exempts paper and plastic bag fees from the state sales tax.
Without swift passage of Senator Saviello’s bill, merchants in the city will have to collect sales tax on the fee charged for paper and plastic bag usage, creating an additional accounting and bookkeeping burden for businesses. No other state taxes bag fees.
“I’ve been working with merchants in the city to craft this bill, as they face enough challenges without having to come up with an additional sales tax formula for paper and plastic bag usage,” said Senator Saviello. “Portland’s City Council created this problem, and my aim is to find a solution that helps to ease the burden on small businesses. LD 590 does that.”
The legislation has initially passed in the Senate, and is expected to be taken up by the House of Representatives on Thursday.
Maine Senate President Sponsors Welfare Reform Legislation
AUGUSTA – Maine Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo) today announced he is the sponsor of a sweeping welfare reform bill that is designed to make recipients accountable to Maine taxpayers.
Thibodeau made his comments today at a news conference in the Cabinet Room at the Maine State Capitol and was joined by Governor Paul LePage, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner (DHHS) Mary Mayhew, and two former recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits who are now on their own without government assistance.
The welfare reform bill is similar in many ways to several bills that were proposed in the 126th Legislature and were blocked by partisans on the Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee who either rejected the bills outright or weakened already existing rules while attempting to pass this off as “reform.”
“This action is long overdue by the Maine Legislature, and that’s why I am pleased to support this legislation,” Senate President Thibodeau said. “Given the makeup of the 127th Legislature, I believe it has a much better chance to pass this time around, and that will be a win for the Maine taxpayer.”
Among the highlights of the welfare reform bill:
- A work requirement for job-ready TANF applicants (must apply for 3 jobs before receiving benefits)
- Prohibits use of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards outside of Maine Legislature
- Prohibits benefits from being used for tobacco, liquor, gambling, lottery, tattoos, and bail
- Imposes a 6 month termination of benefits after the third failure violation of regulations
In the next few weeks, the welfare reform bill is expected to be introduced to the HHS Committee for consideration.
Senate President Says Budget Bill Addresses Most Pressing Needs
AUGUSTA – The Maine Senate today passed a supplemental spending package to address shortfalls in the current state budget.
Among the highlights of the budget bill are funding for 29 positions at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta in order to address staffing problems there.
It also includes more than $2.4 million to cover funding shortfalls at Maine’s county jails.
“I would like to thank members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) Committee for their hard work on these issues,” Senate President Thibodeau said.
“From the very beginning of this process, they have had a clear focus on the spending priorities for Riverview and our jails.
“Today was a good day for the Maine Legislature. Hopefully the unanimous vote on this budget bill will set the tone for the rest of the session.”
Senator Jim Hamper (R-Oxford), who is the Chair of the AFA Committee said, “Passage of LD 236 is a step in the right direction for ensuring that state funding goes where it is most needed. I am pleased it received unanimous support in the Appropriations Committee and in the Senate, and am hopeful this bodes well for our work on the biennial budget.”
Significant Minimum Wage Increase Harmful to Maine’s Economy
Augusta – Republican Senators on the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee (LCRED) today stated that Democrats’ attempt to drastically increase Maine’s minimum wage would have a negative effect on Maine’s economy and workforce.
The Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee is holding a public hearing today on eight pieces of legislation regarding the minimum wage. Seven of the measures seek to increase the minimum wage to as a high as to $12.00 per hour.
A study released by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office in 2014 stated that increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would result in a loss of 500,000 jobs nationwide.
Maine’s current minimum wage is $7.50, which is already higher than the current federal minimum wage.
Senator Amy Volk (R-Cumberland), Chair of the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development, noted that one of the groups most vulnerable to the negative effects of the minimum wage are young people looking for a first job.
“Young people trying to find entry-level work would be negatively affected by a drastic increase in the minimum wage,” said Senator Volk. “We should be encouraging high school and college students to find jobs and build their skillset. By raising the minimum wage to a point where businesses cannot afford to hire entry-level folks, we are stunting the growth of our workforce and reducing the opportunities available to young people.”
In 2013, the last year for which data is available, 52% of those employed at or below the minimum wage in Maine are under the age of 25.
“Dramatically increasing the minimum wage is not the answer to improving Maine’s economy. In fact, it will hurt the very people it’s intended to help. By increasing the cost of labor, it becomes more expensive overall to operate a business,” said Senator Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot). “That cost will be pushed on to the consumer, and everyone, including folks earning the minimum wage, will be paying more for goods and services. A better approach is to continue working to improve Maine’s business environment to attract higher-paying jobs for Mainers.”