Republicans Challenge Wording of Medicaid Expansion Question on Fall Ballot

Question 2 on Maine’s statewide ballot this fall will ask voters if they support expanding Medicaid. Specifically, the proposed wording of the ballot question drafted by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap is:

Do you want Maine to provide health insurance through Medicaid for qualified adults under the age of 65 with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line (which is now about $16,000 for a single person and $22,000 for a family of two)?

On Tuesday, August 22, a group of Republican leaders, including former Senate President and former Chairman of the Maine Republican Party Rick Bennett, held a State House press conference and requested the Secretary of State remove the word “insurance” from the question. Bennett asserted that the expansion should be described as either “taxpayer-funded health benefits” or “government-funded health benefits” rather than “insurance.” The Secretary of State’s office is taking comments on the wording of the ballot question until September 1, 2017 at 5:00 PM. No formal opposition campaign to the ballot question has yet been registered with the Maine Ethics Commission. Notably, Mr. Bennett said on Tuesday that he was getting involved as a businessman and former legislator only, and that he had no plans to run for governor, or any other office.

Governor Paul LePage Rules Out a Run for U.S. Senate

On Thursday, August 23, in response to a question at a Rotary Club luncheon in Caribou, Governor Paul LePage stated that he will not be running for president, and added that he will not be running for a U.S. Senate seat either. In May, one of LePage’s political advisors, Brent Littlefield, issued a statement saying that Governor LePage would not be mounting a campaign against current U.S. Senator Angus King, but the announcement at the Rotary luncheon is the first time the Governor himself has publicly confirmed that he will not be running.

Government Oversight Committee Hears Review of Pine Tree Development Zones

The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee (GOC) met on Wednesday, August 23, to hear a presentation from the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) Director Beth Ashcroft on the status of the Maine business tax incentive program known as the Pine Tree Development Zone (PTDZ) program. The report from OPEGA is part of a larger review of all tax incentive programs intended to look at the design of the programs and whether they are meeting their intended goals. The PTDZ program was enacted in 2003, when Maine’s economy was stagnant, and was designed to encourage companies to move to Maine. Economic development advocates in Maine consider the PTDZ program a critical and necessary tool for keeping Maine competitive and attracting businesses to Maine. Director Ashcroft’s report, however, focused on the difficulty of measuring markers of success within the PTDZ program, in part because it is closely associated with municipal tax increment financing (TIF) programs. Based on Director Ashcroft’s report and comments from members of the GOC, it is anticipated that the GOC and the Legislature’s Taxation Committee will spend the next year working to either significantly redesign the PTDZ program or to replace it with something they believe is better suited to today’s economic development needs. The GOC has tentatively scheduled a public hearing on the OPEGA PTDZ program report for September 21, 2017.

House Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden Announces Bid for Maine’s 2nd District Congressional Seat

Maine House of Representatives Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden will be seeking to unseat U.S. Representative Bruce Poliquin in Maine’s Second Congressional District in next year’s election. Golden, a former Marine from Lewiston, joins four other Democrats who have announced their candidacy: Jonathan Fulford of Monroe; Tim Rich of Bar Harbor; Phil Cleaves of Dexter; and Craig Olson of Isleboro. Golden is currently serving in his second term as a member of the Maine House of Representatives.

Interior Secretary Endorses the Katahdin Monument

One year ago, then-President Barack Obama designated 87,500 acres of land near Millinocket as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The move has been controversial, with both opponents and proponents of the national monument designation lining up to have their voices heard. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump added the monument to a list of 26 other national monuments around the country to be reviewed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. In June, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke visited the Katahdin region as part of the review process. On Thursday, August 24, Secretary Zinke announced that he will recommend keeping the national monument designation, but he did not disclose his recommendations for management changes, which some speculate would allow for timber harvesting, and expand hunting and snowmobiling in areas where they are currently prohibited. President Trump is expected to receive the report shortly and make the final decision.