BANGOR, Maine — With the state’s budget looming over the next legislative session, Bangor leaders have scheduled a meeting with the city’s new delegation to discuss issues that are likely to most affect the Queen City.
City Council members have outlined topics they hope to discuss with House members Adam Goode, Steve Butterfield, James Martin and Sara Stevens, along with Sen. Joseph Perry. By Friday, Goode, Martin and Butterfield had pledged to attend the 5 p.m. meeting on Monday, Dec. 29.
“All of the issues are important,” Bangor City Council Chairman Gerry Palmer said Friday. “But education is going to be a real key issue.”
Palmer said Gov. John Baldacci’s proposed cuts in General Purpose Aid to Education, which will reduce Bangor’s subsidy by more than $500,000, will have a tangible impact, but he worried about further cuts.
“We also plan to make it clear that the state should keep its hands off Penn National,” Palmer said, referring to the company that operates Bangor’s Hollywood Slots, the state’s only gambling facility, which provides revenue for the city. “We’ve worked very hard to build that relationship, and we’ve gotten no support from state to get money for a new arena, so we can’t afford to lose that too.”
Bangor’s mayor further worried that the proposed reduction in the automobile excise tax would remove nearly $2 million from the city’s revenue stream.
“Where will that shortfall come from? The taxpayers?” Palmer asked.
Underlying all issues will be the budget and how cuts affect certain programs and services. With the exception of Perry, all of the legislators looking out for Bangor are first-time state politicians who are going to Augusta at a pivotal and difficult time.
“The good news is that we’re talking to all of them early with hopes that we’re all on the same page with our interests,” Palmer said.
Bangor City Manager Ed Barrett said city staff is particularly interested in pushing for a constitutional amendment that would allow communities to conduct early voting in general elections. Bangor was one of three communities that tried early voting during the primary election in June and wants the opportunity to allow early voting for all elections, something other states have done successfully.
“Certainly, this goes along with our discussions to consolidate our polling locations and make things easier on voters,” Barrett said.