Government Affairs Committee: Volunteer leaders tackled diverse issues in 2013

Posted Jan. 24, 2014, at 3 p.m.

A very engaged group of volunteer leaders on the Chamber’s Governmental Affairs Committee tackled a diverse set of issues in 2013.

Much of our focus was on Augusta, where a new dynamic took hold. Democrats swept into the majority with the 2012 election after two years where Republicans controlled both the legislative and executive branches.

We identified and lobbied for some key priorities. We sought a new biennial budget that preserved the income tax cut approved by the previous Legislature. We saw opportunity with a proposed Omnibus Energy Bill that would help the state better leverage less-expensive natural gas and lower electricity prices as a result. We continued to support more R&D spending, which we see as especially beneficial to our region.

Our testimony before the Joint Appropriations Committee recognized the difficulty of balancing the state budget, but also stressed that the income tax cut was of great benefit to businesses and economic growth. In the end, the budget that was adopted preserved that tax cut (though it brought a slightly higher sales tax).

The Omnibus Energy Bill was a big win for businesses, as it creates a mechanism for ending a bottleneck in the supply of natural gas. This will have a direct bearing on electricity prices.

Unfortunately, R&D spending was not part of the compromise bond package sent to voters in November, but this remains a priority.

Looking ahead to 2014, we’ve outlined our list of priorities in our Issues of Impact statement. Look for the state budget, R&D spending and expansion of MaineCare under the Affordable Care Act – something favored by the Chamber for its positive economic impact on the state – to be priorities.

Next year will be a busy one with Chamber-sponsored debates, and of course look for our Hot Stove forums with area lawmakers during the legislative session.

On a personal note, this was my final year on the Chamber board and thus as chair of Governmental Affairs. I want to thank both volunteers and staff for all their support in this important work.

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