Download Adobe ReaderLegislative Update

August 26, 2014

State House Activity
While it’s still summer in Maine and the legislature has officially adjourned, several of the Joint Standing committees are starting to meet and prepare to work on various policy issues. Included in the meetings are:

Appropriations and Financial Affairs to review DHS and other budget-related matters;

Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) review of tax expenditure programs;

Government Oversight Committee to review the reports from the OPEGA;
Environment & Natural Resources Committee to discuss toxic chemicals, solid waste management and draft shoreland zoning issues;

Veterans & Legal Affairs Committee to receive a presentation on the feasibility of expanded gaming in Maine.

Maine’s Unemployment Rate
According to the State Labor Department, Maine's unemployment rate for the month of July was 5.5 percent. The rate is down sharply from 6.7 percent in July 2013 and is the lowest since August 2008. Maine's unemployment rate is far below the U.S. unemployment rate of 6.2 percent. The number of private-sector jobs is up 8,400 from a year ago in July 2013. The number of government jobs is down 1,300. Government accounted for only 16.3 percent of nonfarm jobs in June and July, its lowest share since May 1999. For more information, please click here.

State Budget Revenues – Surplus reported
Among all the media reports regarding the state’s compliance issues at DHS, there was a positive news story on the year-end budget. When the books closed June 30 on the 2014 fiscal year, the state had more than $49 million in surplus.  While $49 million sounds like a lot of money, it represents only about 1.3 percent of the state’s budget.

Maine law defines where unanticipated revenue at the end of a fiscal year must go. Here’s the breakdown for how the monies were distributed:

  • $19 million went into a reserve account accessible to lawmakers for unexpected budget needs in the current fiscal year
  • $10.3 million was allocated to an employee retirement reserve  
  • $8.5 million was allocated to the state’s rainy day fund, another emergency account for more dire emergencies, such as a recession
  • $3.5 million was funneled into the “Tax Relief for Maine Residents” fund

Elections 2014
While Labor Day has not yet arrived, the television ads for the November 4th elections have already begun. This election year offers voters a full slate of decision; one U.S. Senate seat; both Congressional seats; the Governor’s race for Maine’s CEO, as well as the 186 Maine Legislature – House of Representatives and Senate.

There are also several bond issues and one referendum question on the ballot this fall. To learn more about the upcoming election, please check out this link: http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/upcoming.html

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