Legislature Plans Long Day

Early this past Wednesday morning, the Maine House and Senate adjourned until next Tuesday, June 30.  The Legislature still has some unfinished business to address, including potentially voting on Governor LePage’s anticipated veto of the budget.  He has until 5 pm on Monday, June 29 to sign or veto the budget or to let it pass into law without his signature.  He has said he will be issuing a veto.  Following the session next Tuesday, that may run into early Wednesday morning, the Legislature expects to return on July 16 or 17 to vote on bills vetoed by Governor LePage subsequent to Tuesday’s session.   Not counting line-item vetoes, the Governor has vetoed approximately 129 bills this session, and to date, the Legislature has overridden approximately 85 of those vetoes.  

Federal Subsidies to Continue for Maine Enrollees in Federal Health Insurance Exchange

For the second time, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act in an opinion issued on Thursday, June 25.  The most recent decision upheld the provision of federal subsidies to enrollees in states, including Maine, that have not created a state exchange but instead use the federal healthcare exchange.  This ruling means nearly 67,000 Mainers will continue to receive those health insurance subsidies, the loss of which would have caused their premiums to increase as much as 45%, and, had they stopped buying insurance, could have had a significant impact on the state’s health insurance market. 

Mishaps Mean Low Revenues Reported

Due to a series of mishaps, Maine did not hit expected revenue targets in May.  Insurance company taxes were not filed as expected, and state sales taxes were sent to the wrong state, Maine tax revenues were approximately $5 million below the expected revenue target for May.  Once these issues have been sorted out, Maine revenues are expected to be slightly above target. 

No Minimum Wage Increase

Last week the House and Senate each approved different versions of LD 92, an initiative seeking to increase the state minimum wage, and this week the bill died between the chambers.   The Senate had also approved Governor LePage’s proposal to prevent municipalities from setting a minimum wage that was higher than the state minimum wage, but this week, the House, in an 83-60 vote, rejected the Governor’s bill.  On Tuesday evening, the bill died in non-concurrence.  

‘and’ Unanimously Added

Despite early concerns that a missing “and” in the law that established funding for an Efficiency Maine program would remain missing, and despite the Governor’s veto of the bill that corrected the clerical error, both the House and Senate unanimously voted to over-ride the veto and reinsert the “and”.  By so doing, the program that subsidizes energy –efficient light bulbs and helps businesses convert to energy-saving equipment will now receive $59 million in funding, as was planned when the law was originally passed by the Legislature in 2013, rather than being capped at $22 million under the PUC interpretation of the law without the “and”.   

Gaming Bills Voted Down

The majority report LD 1280 and LD 1446 were rejected this week.  LD 1280’s majority report sought approval to build a casino in southern Maine with a percentage of income from slot machines and table games being taxed; and LD 1446 sought approval to build a casino in northern or eastern Maine.  Supporters of these bills touted the additional jobs they would have brought to the state while opponents contended that the new casinos would mean less revenue for Maine’s already existing casinos.  One of several minority reports for LD 1280 is still alive but if enacted, the Governor may veto it.