Good morning from Augusta. The House and Senate are out until Monday. The budget committee will work on the two-year budget today at 11 a.m. A secret conflict of interest allegation against a Maine lawmaker will be aired in executive session by the Maine Ethics Commission at 9 a.m.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It feels like you have bugs in your bed,” said Amanda Umble of Bangor, one of many in the city and state with a browntail moth rash. “It feels like things are on me the whole night biting me.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
Members of Maine’s congressional delegation are connected to two emerging infrastructure proposals. A bipartisan group of senators, including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, released a statement late Thursday saying they had reached a “realistic” compromise that would be paid for entirely and not include tax increases. The plan is set to cost about $1.2 billion but the specifics of what it included and where funding would come from are not yet clear.
The bipartisan agreement comes days after talks between President Joe Biden’s administration and U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, broke down, and as some congressional Democrats have indicated they would be happy to abandon bipartisan talks and go it alone.
It also comes on the heels of a more detailed bipartisan framework released earlier this week by the House Problem Solvers caucus, a group that includes U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of the 2nd District. That plan calls for $1.25 trillion in funding over eight years, including $761 billion in new spending, to support highways, transit, trains and clean energy, among other projects.
Golden pointed to one potential funding source, but talks on the topic are ongoing. Golden said Thursday that he thought a bipartisan deal made for better legislation and that Democrats were unlikely to have enough votes to pass an infrastructure bill on their own. But even the Problem Solvers’ proposal does not yet address funding mechanisms, which have been a key sticking point in other negotiations.
Both parties have indicated they want to pay for the bill without deficit spending, but Republicans have generally balked at Biden’s proposed tax increases on the wealthiest Americans while the Democratic president has suggested he will not support user fees.
As one possible funding source, Golden pointed to an earlier Biden proposal to increase enforcement by the IRS, which could bring in billions more in revenue each year, according to some estimates, amid declining audits for wealthy Americans. But he said negotiations were ongoing with senators and the White House and he didn’t want to take options off the table.
“The question is: Can we get to 10 senators, at least?” Golden said. “And probably the answer to that question has to do with answering this, this third step that we already kind of alluded to, which is how might we pay for it.”
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine House votes to close state’s only youth jail,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The push to close Long Creek Youth Development Center has been building for years. Advocates have argued the South Portland jail is too large and expensive for fewer than 30 kids, arguing children would be better served in community support systems keeping them closer to home, as a task force recommended last year. That report also recommended the state create a limited secure detention center to house youth who pose a threat to public safety.”
The House was not so willing to consider ending at-will employment in the state. The proposal from Rep. Mike Sylvester, D-Portland, was turned into a study bill after Democrats and Republicans shot it down in a 99-35 vote. It was a major victory for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, whose lobbyists saw the bill as its No. 1 priority to defeat.
— “Newly elected charter commissioner criticized for tweets calling city manager ‘white supremacist’,” Randy Billings, Portland Press Herald: “[Nasreen] Sheikh-Yousef, in her previous role as an organizer of Black POWER, had called on the council to fire [Jon] Jennings last year and has described the city manager position itself as inherently racist. While Sheikh-Yousef did not elaborate on her post Wednesday, she and others have blamed Jennings for policies that they say disadvantage the poor or lead to gentrification, among other things.”
The comments were rebuked by the mayor, a city councilor and the local chamber of commerce. Jennings denounced the “hate-filled tweet.” Mayor Kate Snyder said she was “shocked.” City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau called on Sheikh-Yousef to apologize or resign, a sentiment amplified by the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce that the progressive commissioner swiftly rejected.
— “Hodgdon school district violated state regulations by improperly altering special education programs,” Alexander MacDougall, BDN: “The findings cap an investigation spurred by allegations that the school had altered special needs students’ individual lesson plans without getting proper parental consent beforehand. Teachers of the school had brought the complaint to the [Maine Department of Education], believing the new programs had a negative impact on the students’ mental health and academic performance.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.
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