On Friday, January 6, Maine Governor Paul LePage released his biennial general fund budget for 2018-19. The Governor’s proposed biennial budget and briefing document can be found here. The main priority in the Budget is reducing Maine’s top income tax rate from 10.15 percent to 7.15 percent this year, and then implementing a flat tax of 5.75 percent by 2020. The Budget also purports to make changes to how General Purpose Aid to Education is distributed to public K-12 schools, eliminate State support for General Assistance, eliminates the cap on public charter schools, elevates information services and cybersecurity to a new Cabinet-level Department, tightens eligibility requirements for Medicaid, creates a new statewide public defender system, allows municipalities to assess municipal service fees on large not-for-profit entities, and eliminates 500 state government jobs (300 of which are currently vacant).
Three days later, on Monday, January 9, the Maine Legislature made available its list of proposed bill titles for the first regular session of the 128th Maine Legislature. The full list of titles, organized by subject, is available here. At this point, there are nearly 1900 titles covering issues from the environment, to insurance, to energy, to professional licensing. Although the bill title list only includes titles, not the bills themselves, we anticipate that those bills that do come forward will be printed or posted online at a rate of 100-200 per week. We further anticipate that, of the 1900 +/- titles published, about 10-20% of the titles will not come forward as bills due to attrition, consolidation, or missed deadlines.
The Energy, Utilities, and Technology (EUT) Committee will consider a number of energy bills this session. Following the narrow defeat of the solar bill last session, the EUT Committee will consider 12 different solar bills, including proposals that would impact rooftop solar, large utility-scale solar, and everything in between. As Maine’s biomass generators continue to struggle after the legislature authorized subsidies last session, the Committee will consider whether additional subsidies to the biomass industry are warranted. Other targeted bills before the Committee would reform Maine’s renewable portfolio standards, modernize the electric grid, and expand access to heat pumps for homeowners. Several bills look to affect broader state policy, including proposals for the creation of a Maine energy office, establishing a state energy policy, and protecting consumers from high energy prices. Finally, there are several structural bills that would strengthen the independence of the Office of the Public Advocate, examine the procedural rules for the Public Utilities Commission, and improve transparency in the electricity supply market.