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If At First You Don't Succeed

by Jennifer Gray

State House Update

Tomorrow evening, Governor LePage will be presenting his final State of the State speech. It’s our understanding that he will use the opportunity to again push for taxing nonprofits. Yes, he has tried repeatedly, without success, to accomplish this goal. We encourage the nonprofit community to not be lackadaisical but rather to look at this as an opportunity to educate your communities about the values of the nonprofit sector. While we feel confident that we have a strong case, it’s never a bad idea to take a few moments to reach out to your local legislators and remind them of the contributions nonprofit provide to the state and to their communities. For tips on talking about the sector check out our Frames that Work Toolkit and stay tuned for more specific talking points once the Governor’s bill has been released.

Focus on Land Trusts

Blue Hill Heritage Trust

The Governor continues to direct his aim at land trusts. If you recall, in the final moments of the budget negotiations last summer, language added created a study led by the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) Committee.

So far, the administration has been releasing bits and pieces of information in regard to the study without context but apparently with errors. The Maine Land Trust Network released its own report highlighting the value of land trusts. This piece in the Bangor Daily News does an excellent job capturing some of the errors and filling in some of the holes in the context and is well worth a read. Maine Audubon contributed an excellent op-ed today in the Bangor Daily News highlighting the many benefits of land conservation to Maine. The ACF committee met today for its final meeting to discuss this report and unanimously recognized the value of land trusts including the economic and community benefits that they contribute.

Raise the Profile of the Whole Sector

While Governor LePage has been particularly focused on land trusts, other nonprofits should not think they’re immune. Often, initiatives aimed at land trusts have drawn in more of the nonprofit community. Be prepared. Think about how you can articulate your organization’s benefits to your community – economic and beyond. Have some talking points drafted that includes these benefits plus what might be at risk if your organization was taxed.

If we all continue to point out the value of the whole nonprofit sector to Maine, it’s possible that we can stop talking about how to extract from the nonprofit sector and instead consider how we might help it better achieve its mission work which benefits Maine communities. For resources on boosting the sector, check out our Frames that Work Toolkit.

Federal Update


A two-year budget deal passed last week that spends an additional $296 billion in the current and next fiscal years. Defense spending caps would be raised by $80 billion in fiscal 2018 and $85 billion in fiscal 2019. The agreement would raise nondefense spending by $63 billion in fiscal 2018 and by $68 billion in fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1. The deal includes $90 billion in additional emergency funds for hurricane-affected communities and $20 billion for infrastructure. If enacted, it would lift the sequestration caps and suspend the debt ceiling until March 1, 2019. It also extended the continuing resolution. The Pay As You Go Rules that restrict deficit spending would be suspended.

Not all is good news, however. The President’s proposed budget includes a 34% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency which is a $2.8 billion cut to the EPA budget compared to the 2017 budget.

Johnson Amendment

The President declared that he would destroy the Johnson Amendment (federal tax policy that bars nonprofits from engaging in electoral politics including endorsing candidates and spending money on candidates) at last year’s National Prayer breakfast. There was much anticipation going into this year’s annual event which occurred last week. Interestingly, the President did not mention the Johnson Amendment in his comments at last week’s breakfast.

The President’s budget (released today) also did not call for repeal of the Johnson Amendment. However, it’s likely that we’ll face a fight to keep it out of the Omnibus Spending bill (all 12 appropriations bills for fy 2018) by March 23, the deadline of the latest continuing resolution. After that, the next “best” chance for a Johnson Amendment skirmish is on the FY 2019 spending bill for the Financial Service and General Government.

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