Mon, 21 Mar 2011 08:47:17 EDT**SEACOAST ONLINE: Income tax law halts service-sharing idea**
Mon, 14 Mar 2011 09:57:14 EDTState budget concerns shared with Sen. Hobbins
Fri, 11 Mar 2011 11:15:50 ESTEDITORIAL: The folks over at the Maine Turnpike Authority were feeling some heat Friday, Jan. 28, as the state's Government Oversight Committee took the quasi-governmental agency to task for a report released by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability.
Fri, 11 Mar 2011 10:45:25 EST##FOSTER'S: Seeing Great Hill Bridge project in South Berwick firsthand allays some concerns##
Fri, 04 Mar 2011 11:15:43 ESTMaine and New Hampshire hope to get $20 million in federal funds to help replace Memorial Bridge.AUGUSTA - As part of an effort to secure $20 million in federal grant money, the LePage administration says it is willing to commit $35 million to help replace the Memorial Bridge between Kittery and Portsmouth, N.H.The Memorial Bridge between Kittery and Portsmouth had to close for repairs for about two weeks in December.The federal money, known as a TIGER II grant, has been approved but not released, and budget wrangling in Congress has raised questions about whether Maine and New Hampshire, which co-own the bridge, will get it.Gov. Paul LePage met with lawmakers from York and Cumberland counties Tuesday and reiterated his support for the project.**"The governor told us he would like to help in any way he can to get funding," said state Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York. "I'm a little frustrated because of the pitfalls, but ultimately, I believe this will happen."**The bridge replacement is expected to cost $90 million. Plans call for each state to contribute $35 million and the federal grant to pay for the rest.But the U.S. House approved a spending plan last month that would eliminate the grant money. That bill has yet to be taken up by the Senate, and whether the $20 million will be included in a final version is unclear.LePage has said he will not support additional state bonding at this time, including for transportation projects. But the previous Legislature and Maine voters approved $160 million in bridge bonding, and $55 million of that is still available, said Bruce Van Note, deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation.Van Note said the LePage administration was preparing a memorandum of agreement with New Hampshire outlining each state's commitment to the project. Maine officials hope to convince the Obama administration to release the funding, even though some administrative work still needs to be done, before Congress approves a budget that cuts it."Assuming the TIGER grant falls into line, we're ready to proceed," Van Note said.The Memorial Bridge, one of three connecting Kittery to Portsmouth, was built in 1923 and tops New Hampshire's list of bridges in need of replacement. It was forced to close for repairs in December for about two weeks.**Hill said the bridge is important not only to local businesses, but the rest of the state as well.****"If you remember, the governor, the day after he stepped into office, sent a sign down south to put on I-95 saying we're open for business. My point is, what does it matter if they can't get over here? So the bridges are critical," she said.**Bill Boynton, spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, said the two-week shutdown in December had a noticeable impact."It was right leading into the Christmas season, and the merchants and the restaurants and everybody else got a little glimpse of it and didn't like what they saw," he said. "Not only the people who live on both sides, but it also changes the whole traffic flow of the whole mindset of where people are going for commerce and that kind of thing."State Sen. Jon Courtney, R-Sanford, said Congress' actions are forcing Maine to commit a lot of its remaining funding to one project, which will affect the rest of the state."I think we don't have a choice, just based on the way Congress is working right now, or we're going to forgo that $20 million," he said. "So we are going to have to come up with some creative ways going forward to fund the rest of the transportation projects. It just makes our jobs a little bit tougher."U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said Tuesday in an interview that she believes moving ahead as quickly as possible with the bridge project is "imperative" because of the bridge's deteriorating condition. Snowe and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, also R-Maine, said they are trying to persuade the Obama administration to speed up the release of the $20 million.They, along with U.[...]
Wed, 26 Jan 2011 10:11:50 EST*Proposes the use of GARVEE funds to rehabilitate the Memorial and I-95 Bridges that span over the Piscataqua River*
Tue, 25 Jan 2011 10:59:15 EST**Editorial: Sen. Hill has powerful role in Augusta**
Tue, 25 Jan 2011 10:53:54 EST**'Kiss my butt' is Maine Gov. LePage's message**
Tue, 25 Jan 2011 10:49:36 ESTSeacoast Online: **LePage makes his mark***Conservative governor is reshaping Maine*As Republican Gov. Paul LePage ends his first 10 days in office, he has met expectations of political watchers; enthralling some and raising red flags for others. Like him or not, everyone agrees he's been true to several key campaign promises and has heralded a new era in Maine government.Since he was sworn in Jan. 6, LePage has issued three executive orders - one allowing state workers to question immigrants about their residency status, one continuing the hiring freeze of state positions and a third ordering that all proposed state rules and regulations be reviewed by his office. He has submitted a supplemental budget that begins to pay back hospitals for money the state owes them, has signaled his intent to have Maine join a lawsuit with 20 other states seeking a legal challenge to the federal Health Care Reform Act, made many cabinet appointments that have been met with mixed responses and told all acting commissioners that communication with the media must be cleared by his office first."I'm not surprised at anything he's done so far. I expected him to use his executive order authority relatively aggressively and he's done that," said Mark Brewer, University of Maine political science professor. "You could see how some of the things would rankle people on the left. But I don't think that bothers him."Brewer said LePage signals a distinct departure from business as usual in Maine. "People have to remember, Le-Page doesn't fit into the mold of recent Maine governors. He's a conservative Republican, and there hasn't ever been one of those - at least not in recent memory. He's going to be doing things a lot differently than they've been done," he said.Among those who welcome that change is Cathy Goodwin, president of the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce."I think everyone has been impressed so far," said Goodwin, who attended Le-Page's inauguration on Jan. 5 and was in the statehouse the following day. "The mood there was very upbeat, very positive. Everyone was excited. There was a lot of buzz, energy and hope. I've been up there in the past when it's been all doom and gloom and nobody knew how to fix it. This feels different."Goodwin said she has been most impressed by LePage's commitment to the businesspeople of Maine. Since before he took office, he and his staff have been holding a series of "Red Tape Audit" meetings organized by local chambers of commerce. The meetings are intended as a forum for businesspeople to talk about their problems and concerns with state government. One is scheduled for this coming Friday, Jan. 21, in York. Goodwin said these meetings, coupled with his executive order on rules and regulations, signal a new day for the small businesses that make up her membership."The biggest obstacle to job growth has been not the rules but the staff interpretation of the rules, which can be arbitrary," she said. "I don't think anyone minds playing by the rules if you know what the rules are. People are frustrated. They're trying to do the right thing, trying to make payroll, but they run up against these walls."Goodwin said she is pleased that LePage is a businessman himself - he was the former general manager of Marden's stores - and that he came from an impoverished background. "The common people haven't had a voice for a long time and this governor gets that. I love that. I love the common sense of that," she said.But former York state representative and Maine Democratic Party activist Neil Rolde said the very things that thrill Republicans give him pause for thought.He praised LePage's choice of Sawin Millett as commissioner of Administrative and Financial Services. Millett, who led LePage's supplemental budget team, is a former legislator and has worked in administrations of Republican and indep[...]
Wed, 05 Jan 2011 17:48:29 EST##The York Weekly: York's Top 10 movers and shakers for 2010#####Top 10 movers and shakers continue their influence###January 05, 2011 Who shaped town politics and life in 2010? That was the question The York Weekly asked as the paper looked back on the year that was. The ensuing Top 10, profiled here, are familiar names who contributed both in ways large and small, out front and behind the scenes, to influence how York operates and is viewed by the community at large.(1) Town Manager Rob YandowNo one can say Yandow is not involved. He not only stays on top of all aspects of York's government, but is involved in state and county issues as well. Yandow, the town's public health officer, is former chairman of the York (County) District Public Health Council and former vice chairman of the Maine State Coordinating Council for Public Health. This year, he became a member of the Maine Municipal Association executive committee."He got us up and running as a public health district," said York County Emergency Management Director Bob Bohlmann, who recommended Yandow as a pick for top mover and shaker. "During disasters, he's been right there working with us on different events; York has not missed too many of those."Working with the Board of Selectmen, Yandow has been the driving force in ongoing infrastructure improvements at the beach and in York Village. But the project that will perhaps become his legacy, the one with the potential for the most far-reaching results, is the land deal to construct a new police station in York Beach and an access road to that building from Ridge Road and to Route 1. It hasn't been easy and, as the details unfold, he, as well as the Board of Selectmen, have received both kudos and complaints.(2) Steve BurnsCommunity Development Director Steve Burns is everywhere these days, from closing the doors on Paras Pizza for code violations to stepping into the mire of the entangled relationship between the town and the private Ellis Park in an effort to get clarity on town ordinances. His newest mission is to clarify the definitions of permitted uses in York's zoning ordinance. Burns, with help from the Planning Board, is attempting to take the devil out of the details by defining every use, from dwellings to car washes to automobile graveyards.As head of the town's planning department, Burns also has a bird's eye view of the bigger picture: engineering studies that could potentially change the infrastructure of York beach and village.(3) Cathy GoodwinFormer selectman Cathy Goodwin did not serve as chairman during her two-and-a-half years on the board, but there's no doubt her influence was felt. Goodwin, who is also president of the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce, spoke her mind concerning beach infrastructure, including a controversial recommendation to move the York Beach ball field. Indeed, she often weathered criticism - from this publication and residents - for serving as both an elected official and chamber head.As president of the chamber, Goodwin years ago helped organized a Renaissance Committee to plan a revitalization for York Beach, an effort that carries on today. She also was instrumental in carrying out the chamber's controversial decision in 2009 to focus Harvestfest activities solely in York Beach.Goodwin's sphere of influence extends beyond York's borders. She serves on a steering committee for the Maine-New Hampshire Connections Study, working to save the historic Memorial Bridge connecting Kittery and Portsmouth, N.H. Earlier last year, she also fought a recommendation by the Maine Department of Transportation to turn the span into a pedestrian and bicycle-only pathway.**(4 and 5) Dawn Hill, Windol Weaver****First-term state Sen. Dawn Hill, a former state representative, has been tapped by the Republican Party leadership to serve on [...]
Tue, 04 Jan 2011 09:58:02 EST###First term State Senator is appointed to serve on the legislative committee that deals with the state's finances###
Tue, 04 Jan 2011 09:54:22 ESTBRUNSWICK - Local legislative leaders will be holding office hours Saturday, January 8, 2011 from 10 a.m. to noon. Senator Stan Gerzofsky will be joined with Brunswick Representatives Charlie Priest, Alex Cornell du Houx, and Peter Kent at the Little Dog Coffee Shop on Maine Street in Brunswick.
Mon, 20 Dec 2010 13:32:20 EST##Lawmakers reach compromise on labor panel##AUGUSTA - Lawmakers battling over the fate of the 123-year-old Labor Committee settled Wednesday on a compromise that likely will allow Republicans to merge the panel with one that traditionally handled business matters.The Legislature's Rules Committee voted unanimously to create the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development panel, essentially merging worker safety, compensation and union issues handled by the Labor Committee with an economic development committee.The Labor Committee's fate had been the buzz for weeks, as the new Republican majority's effort to strike an early tone for governing clashed with labor advocates and Democrats, who originally described the plan as a political power play at the expense of organized labor and workers.On Tuesday night, Republican leadership announced plans to merge the business development panel and the Labor Committee to create the Jobs Committee. By Wednesday evening, after several closed-door meetings between Democratic and Republican leaders, and much heated rhetoric, the panel had a new name and a new jurisdiction.All existing labor matters are slated to remain in the new panel except those related to benefits and pensions for state and municipal employees. The latter will move to the Appropriations Committee.Initially, labor advocates feared worker issues would be dispersed to other committees. Laura Harper of the Maine Women's Lobby said the compromise alleviates some of her group's fears about dissolving the labor panel.Republican lawmakers said the move was part of an election mandate to streamline government, create jobs and make Maine more business friendly. They said the proposal would save money. They didn't outline jurisdiction assignments until Wednesday night."Issues that involve businesses by (their) nature involve workers," said House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland. "It makes sense to me, and the members of my caucus, to have those issues under one roof."Initially, Democrats and labor advocates had a much different view. They blasted the GOP for a plan that ran counter to the oft-repeated Republican slogan "people before politics."The private talks spoke to the divisiveness of the issue, as both sides scrambled to claim they were representing working people. The tone was set early, as labor advocates held a morning news conference in the Hall of Flags to say Republicans didn't care about workers, just corporate interests.Emery Deabay, a mill worker from Bucksport, said Republicans were telling ordinary workers that they "didn't count.""They are telling us workers that we are the ones responsible for the economic troubles we face; we are the brakes that stop business development and we don't count," Deabay said. "From now on, they are saying, our issues and concerns will come after corporate greed, after business at any cost and after our need to put you in your place, on the bottom."Deabay said the Labor Committee was the only legislative panel that would adequately hear worker safety issues.He said, "If you are a person that runs a cash register, you don't count. If you are a person that waits on tables, you don't count. If you are a person that works in a mill, you don't count."After the news conference, the Maine Republican Party called on Democratic lawmakers to repudiate organized labor's comments."Maine's working people aren't interested in labor union power grabs," wrote Maine GOP Executive Director Christie-lee McNally. "They're interested in preserving and creating good jobs for Maine."One lawmaker, Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, said the plan was tied to the new majority's quest for more office space on the third floor of the State House."It's about space for their staff[...]
Mon, 20 Dec 2010 12:55:08 EST##Millions slashed in plan for three bridges##PORTLAND, Maine - With about a week to go before it must submit its report on the Seacoast bridges between Maine and New Hampshire, the Bi-State Funding Task Force on Tuesday wrangled tens of millions of dollars in additional savings out of a 30-year draft cost estimate of more than $600 million.Members also made it perfectly clear that new or increased tolling as a means of paying long-term for the maintenance of the bridges is not part of their purview and will be a decision for the two states' legislatures.That statement was made even as a draft report submitted Tuesday suggests a $215 million "net need" over 30 years between costs and sources of funding. That figure is expected to decrease following changes made at the meeting.In that draft report, Roland Lavallee of consulting engineering firm HNTB Inc. estimated a $614 million cost to build a new Memorial Bridge, rehabilitate the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, and maintain and repair those two - along with the Piscataqua River Bridge - over 30 years. That figure is down from the $620 million listed in his previous draft report to the task force last week. The $620 million figure in turn was down from $678 million earlier in the process.But task force members made recommendations Tuesday to bring the costs down even more.Member Henry Stebbins, a Manchester lawyer, said the figures in the report did not include interest earned on money placed in a "sinking fund" the task force is recommending. That fund would contain contributions from the two states and any outside funds targeted for the bridges over the next 30 years."We're talking about a lot of money. If you're earning 4 to 5 percent in interest, it can turn into a substantial factor," he said.In a suggestion that had great support, Stebbins advised that a built-in increase of 3 percent a year for maintenance be reduced. N.H. Transportation Commissioner George Campbell put forth a 2 percent increase, but cautioned it will take "ongoing discipline" to make sure that benchmark is met.Paul Violette, director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, who has been working with Lavallee, said making the change could save $50 million or more. The task force also agreed that central to its recommendations will be the reformation of the Interstate Bridge Authority, created in the 1930s to finance the Long Bridge and disbanded several years ago by both states."When we talk about the sinking fund, what we're really talking about is reconstituting the IBA with sufficient tools so that some legislator can't show up 15 years from now and say, 'We're not going to put those funds in,'" Campbell said.Maine Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors, chairman of the task force, made clear that he did not want the group to commit to tolling as part of the solution."I don't think it's appropriate at this time. It's an alternative to be considered in the future as a way of addressing a need."Task force member Gerard Conley, chairman of the MTA, reminded the group that there hasn't been a gas tax increase in Maine in a number of years. And Beverly Hollingworth, outgoing member of the N.H. Executive Council, said the source of future funding is really up to the Legislature."I think this needs to be in the legislative process. Lots of states are looking at lots of way to fund highways," she said. "While I don't want to pass the buck to the legislatures, it really is their buck."State Sen. Dawn Hill, D-Maine, who attended the meeting, said afterward her first impression is that the task force did "an impressive job." However, she cautioned, implementation of the suggestions will be up to not only a new Maine Legislature, but also to Gov.-elect Paul LePage. [...]
Mon, 20 Dec 2010 12:49:07 EST##Seacoast Online: Southern York County delegation to keep focus on bridges##Legislators from southern York County are gearing up for what will likely be a full-court press in the next session to secure political support in Augusta for the three bridges crossing the Piscataqua River.New and returning legislators alike say the bridges will require a great deal of their attention, even as they participate in an historic legislative session that turns leadership of both houses over to Republicans for the first time in 30 years and tackle gnarly budget issues.Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York, who entered the Senate after serving two terms in the House, said she takes heart that the entire York County delegation appears to be focused on making the bridges a priority for the upcoming session.The York County Advocacy Project, a group of town administrators and state legislators formed to give the county a stronger voice in Augusta, met recently to strategize about its top priorities for the next session, Hill said. Top on the list were the three bridges.She said Sen. Jon Courtney, R-Sanford, the new Senate majority leader, told the group that if the county legislative delegation made the bridges the priority, other issues in the large and mainly rural county would receive less attention."No legislator that night indicated otherwise," she said. "(Sanford City Manager) Mark Green said, 'The bridges are the gateway to Maine and if we don't take care of them we'll all pay the consequences.'"She said based on what she heard that night, "it is my expectation that the entire delegation will talk with other legislators across the state about the importance of the bridges."The first of what is expected to be a number of bills dealing with the bridges was already filed by Rep. Bobbi Beavers, D-Eliot/South Berwick. The bill would create a fund that would set aside as much as $25 million a year for the bridges. The Bi-State Funding Task Force on the bridges, which will come out with its report in mid-December, is expected to recommend the formation of a fund, and Beavers said her legislation could dovetail with that."The key here is that I get the feeling from both sides of the aisle that people understand how important the bridges are to the state," she said.Rep. Windol Weaver, R-York, returning for his third term in office, was approached by House leadership about serving on the transportation committee, to which bills such as Beavers' would likely be assigned and that will be tackling the allocation of transportation dollars. He said he would like the Legislature to set aside funding for the next several years to pay for Maine's portion of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, which is recommended for rehabilitation in 2016, and Memorial Bridge. New Hampshire agreed to pay upfront costs to replace Memorial Bridge.Weaver echoed what many legislators said, that while the bridges may be central among their concerns, the economy and a flagging budget are going to get the lion's share of the entire Legislature's attention in the upcoming session. The state's Revenue Forecasting Committee announced last week that revenue is projected to be $365 million more than anticipated over the next two years, making what was expected to be a $1 billion shortfall likely more like $840 million.Still, the next session is going to present significant challenges."We have to do something," said Weaver of the Republican majority in the Legislature. "If we don't, we'll all be gone in two years. We have to walk a fine line. We have to protect the elderly, people with disability and kids, but we have to look at everything else."Windol said he will support any effort that creates jobs or makes it easier f[...]