Senate upholds governor’s vetoes on tax and energy bills

Posted Jan. 10, 2012, at 11:59 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 10, 2012, at 3:51 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate on Tuesday upheld a trio of vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage on bills that initially passed during last year’s legislative session.

The bill sponsors, all Democrats, urged their colleagues to override the vetoes and even got some Republicans to join them on one vote, but none were successful. So far, the Legislature has upheld all 15 of LePage’s vetoes dating to last year.

Sen. Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham, who sponsored LD 1264, An Act To Improve the Energy Efficiency of Public Buildings and Create Jobs, said his bill is good public policy and pointed out that it passed unanimously through the House and Senate last spring.

Bartlett also criticized the governor for his rationale in issuing the veto, which was that it would give more power to Efficiency Maine. The senator said his bill would do no such thing.

“Today was a missed opportunity. The Legislature and the governor had an opportunity to address a major concern of Maine people — energy costs,” Bartlett said in a statement. “By encouraging energy efficiency, we would have been prudent with taxpayer money by saving on energy costs.”

Sen. Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, voted to uphold the veto and called it the equivalent of an unfunded mandate. He credited the governor for saying so.

The Senate also upheld vetoes of LD 338, sponsored by Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, which sought to create an income tax credit for logging companies that hire Maine residents, and LD 205, a bill that exempted nonprofit performing arts organizations from sales taxes, sponsored by Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick.

In his veto letter, LePage said he supported performing arts organizations, just not tax incentives for them.

“Simply because something is worthwhile and good does not mean it should enjoy tax free status,” the governor wrote. “Exemptions from the sales tax should be saved for the necessities of life — food, shelter, medicine — as well as for important initiatives meant to foster growth and create good paying jobs in Maine industries, increasing our overall tax base.”

Several Republicans voted with Democrats to override LD 205, but not enough to turn the tide. A two-thirds majority vote in the Senate is necessary for a veto to be overridden. The GOP holds a 20-14 edge in that body.

“I am disappointed by today’s result,” Gerzofsky said. “Easing the sales tax costs to these local nonprofit businesses would have helped these organizations grow their businesses, provide stable jobs, and support job growth in the tourism and retail sectors.”

Writing about his veto of LD 338, the governor said: “This bill will likely do little to achieve its proposed objective — encouraging timber companies to hire Maine residents … . Quite frankly, there are better ways to give our loggers tax relief and allow them to create jobs in our working forests.”

Before the end of the last session, the governor had vetoed 12 bills, all of which were upheld by the Legislature.

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