Rep. Jared Golden talks with fellow hikers on the top of Black Mountain in Rumford on Aug. 20, 2020. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Good morning from Augusta.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I was happy to talk with her, but I’m more interested in what the people of Maine are telling me about it,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told Politico after receiving a call from Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who is reaching out to senators to advocate for paid family leave. Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The representative from Maine’s 2nd District said Democrats have made improvements to their budget bill but still had concerns as a vote approaches. U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, has been skeptical of his party’s massive reconciliation bill, saying last month it needed more changes to get his support. They seem to have taken some steps forward and backward in gaining his support.

In a Wednesday Medium post, he praised some changes to the bill, including the return of income restrictions for child care assistance (though he said he would still prefer a stricter level0 and the removal of the proposed tobacco tax, as well as efforts to focus the bill by doing fewer things more completely. 

But he raised concerns that the expanded child tax credit is still set to expire after a year, and criticized the elimination of the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction, calling it “one of the worst possible additions” to the bill. About 61 percent of the benefits of repealing the cap would go to households among the top 1 percent of earners, while 85 percent would go to the top 5 percent, according to one estimate from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

The issue of the state and local tax deduction has resulted in an odd political alignment among Democrats, as many of the moderates with whom Golden has often allied support repealing the cap, while progressives tend to be ardent opponents of eliminating it. The issue could be a key sticking point as negotiations continue.

House Democrats seem to be moving toward a vote quickly, although the timeline remains unclear. Lawmakers could vote on a long-awaited infrastructure bill in the next few days, as Democrats appear poised to de-link it from the budget bill, something Golden called for earlier this summer. But the budget bill still has to pass both chambers of Congress, and remains unlikely to do so in its current form.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Corridor race fuels Maine’s highest odd-year election turnout since 2009,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Maine has consistently recorded among the highest voter turnout levels of any U.S. state. But odd-year elections consistently draw fewer voters than even-year elections that feature either gubernatorial or presidential elections. Turnout this year was still down significantly from 2020, when nearly 820,000 voters cast ballots, but still suggested the CMP corridor referendum had energized voters in an election that did not include any statewide partisan races.”

The parent company of Central Maine Power was quick to make good on its threat of a lawsuit. Avangrid Networks, along with NECEC Transmission, argued in a Cumberland County Superior Court filing the referendum violated several legal principles, including vested property rights, separation of powers and contract clauses in the Maine and U.S. constitutions. They are suing both bodies of the Legislature, the Maine Public Utilities Commission and the Bureau of Parks and Lands. 

Quebec was confident the project would move forward, at least on their side. Premier Francois Legault said the provincial-owned Hydro-Quebec has “other routes” to take hydropower into the New England grid, although he did not get into further details. The CEO of Hydro-Quebec promised the company would be joining the legal fight soon.  Meanwhile, work on the project is continuing, which incensed project opponents. To see how your town voted on Question 1, check this out.

Republicans filibustered Democrats’ latest attempt at a voting overhaul. Collins was one of 49 Republicans who filibustered opening debate on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would require certain states pre-clear changes to voting laws with the federal government. Republicans have called the bill a “power grab.” U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and has championed the measure, said he was “beyond frustrated by the unwillingness of my colleagues to step up and negotiate in good faith.”

— “Republicans see Virginia governor’s race as ominous sign for Janet Mills,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “Republicans were quick to paint the Virginia race’s results as a backlash against Biden and a bellwether for [Gov. Janet] Mills. While Maine has reliably reelected incumbent governors during the modern era and there are recent examples of voters rejecting nationalization here, some Democrats were sounding the alarm ahead of another fraught election here.”

— “Outcome of tied ranked-choice race in Portland to be determined by chance,” Nick Schroeder, BDN: “A contentious four-way race for an at-large seat on Portland’s city council has resulted in a dead tie by two candidates after a ranked-choice runoff tally, according to a city spokesperson.”

The drawing between the two candidates is this morning, but a recount is certain. The winner of the race between former school board chair Roberto Rodriguez and planning board chair Brandon Mazer will be chosen at random in front of City Hall at 10 a.m. But that’s a bit of a red herring since the loser is expected to request a recount and there is almost no chance that the race remains tied once the votes are counted and reallocated by hand.

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.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...