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Is Spring Coming to the State House?

by Jennifer Gray

Photo credit:  Independence Association

Despite the fact that we’re now into April, the Maine Legislature is sticking to its winter schedule, continuing to meet only two days a week. Clearly, the hope is that this will help the committees accomplish a lot of their work. With 1321 bills printed, there are still over 500 more to come, and the rumor is that the Governor has over two dozen bills pending but not printed.

The pace is certainly picking up.

Surplus Property

MANP is pleased to announce that the State and Local Government Committee voted unanimously to expand the opportunity to buy salvage property from the state to all nonprofits (LD 648). A big thank you goes to the sponsor, Rep. Gay Grant (Gardiner), and to the State and Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Paul Davis (Piscataquis) and Rep. Danny Martin (Sinclair). Hopefully, the bill will continue to enjoy strong bipartisan support.

Increase Reimbursement Rate

We submitted testimony in support of LD 967. The public hearing before the Health and Human Services Committee was Monday. Here’s an excerpt from our testimony:

  • Nonprofits are important economic contributors. Just look at the numbers:  1 in 6 (over 95,000) of Maine workers is employed by a Maine nonprofit. While they play a critical role in Maine’s economy, they are not all big. Seventy five percent have annual budgets under $100,000.
  • Like many other nonprofits, the organizations providing the care impacted by LD 967 play a critical role in their community. They provide these essential services, but they also provide jobs and their employees spend money. These jobs are a significant contributor to the local economy–many of these communities are rural with limited economic opportunities. The Charlotte White Center, for example, is operating in Piscataquis County, one of Maine’s poorest counties. The Center has a $10 million annual payroll and employees 350 people, many of whom are between 18 and 35 years old.
  • The current reimbursement rate is insufficient to allow these organizations to offer adequate wages to keep the positions filled. Turnover can be as high as 44% per year. This turnover impacts care and increases costs as temporary workers, hired to fill the vacant positions, cost more.  Many of these organizations are operating on the margins, particularly the smaller organizations and those located in the rural parts of the state.
  • Small nonprofits face a variety of pressures. Should they not survive, the impact on the community could be devastating, causing a cascading impact to those directly benefiting from the services and the local economy that depends on these jobs.

Here’s a link to a recent Portland Press Herald article about the bill.

Property Tax Exemptions

LDs 727, 1121 and 1076 are scheduled for public hearing before the Taxation Committee on April 12 at 1 p.m.

  • LD 1121 amends the property tax exemption provided to benevolent and charitable incorporated institutions and to scientific and literary institutions by precluding the exemption if the property is used incidentally in the provision of goods, services or materials in exchange for any type of consideration. (MANP opposes)

         Action:  It would be very helpful to know if any organizations have examples of how they’d be impacted by LD 1121. In addition, if any of the examples of incidental use actually provide community benefits, those would be very helpful to know.

  • LD 727 addresses the effect of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision in Francis Small Heritage Trust, Inc. v. Town of Limington et al., 2014 ME 102, by specifying that holding land primarily for conservation or public access purposes is not a benevolent or charitable purpose, which is a condition necessary to obtaining an exemption from property tax. The change applies to property tax years beginning on or after April 1, 2018. (MANP opposes)
  • LD 1076 requires that if a Land for Maine’s Future acquisition removes a taxable property from the tax roll of a municipality or the unorganized territory on or after April 1, 2018, the State annually must reimburse the municipality or unorganized territory in an amount equal to the tax the municipality or unorganized territory would have received for that property. (MANP opposes)
  • The Maine Municipal Association’s bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Saviello (Franklin) still hasn’t been printed. The Governor’s bill regarding property taxes and nonprofits also has not been printed. (MANP opposes)
  • The Nature Conservancy’s bill, LD 1289, has been printed. This creates a mechanism for the state to accept voluntary payments in lieu of taxes in the unorganized part of the state. (MANP supports)

Raffle Regulatory Simplification

The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee is killing bills related to the streamlining and simplifying of raffles, etc. because they have a comprehensive proposal that’s going into the budget.

Sales Tax Expansion

The Taxation Committee is still working on its budget items including the sales tax exemption. They plan to vote on this portion of the proposed budget Wednesday morning at 9. We understand that there are at least some on the committee who won’t support expanding the sales tax to recreation and amusement services as proposed in the budget.

Johnson Amendment

Thank you to the 68 organizations who’ve signed onto the community letter opposing efforts to repeal and weaken the Johnson Amendment at the federal level. There are bills in both the House and Senate and it’s likely that this effort will get wrapped into tax reform that is coming right up. If your organization hasn’t already done so, please let our delegation know that your organization opposes efforts to undermine the nonpartisanship of nonprofits.  To learn more about the issue, go to The National Council of Nonprofits campaign page https://www.givevoice.org/

Federal Budget

In regard to the federal budget, we don’t expect to see details of the President’s plans until May.  We do have his blueprint which is very bad for for the nonprofit sector.

One thought on “Is Spring Coming to the State House?

Thanks for these updates!

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