Quotable Quotes from the State House

(from Maine Townsman, July 2007)

On the Legislature’s process in developing a Tax Reform bill:

“It’s a process that has shown the absolute best and the absolute worst about this institution. We had a Committee that started in earnest to work on a set of underlying principles then vetted and approved by both caucuses of both chambers as something that made sense …

It was not “us versus them”, it was working together. It had produced a bill that was far from perfect. But, nothing could be perfect in this realm. It moved Maine significantly forward. And it was a good bill.

But then our [Committee] process turns into this greater [full Legislature] process. And unfortunately, the non-partisanship, the spirit of cooperation that got us through 5 months of tough work, couldn’t last in this body or the other Chamber for two weeks. And that’s a sad commentary. That really hurts.

What’s happened in the last two weeks is all about politics. And I hope you and the people of Maine realize that. We have all been manipulated. The people of Maine have all been manipulated. Special interests who care about one narrow piece of this has spread word that you have to fight this; without explaining its full impact, its full value, its full benefits…

If that’s the lens that we wear when we deal with public policy, we will never enact meaningful tax reform. If people can take a revenue-neutral package that rebalances the code and turn that into something that is somehow bad because we’re shifting tax burden, we have lost…

If people can take the good will of folks in a very open and transparent process where a lot of the language has been out there for months and say we’re doing everything in the dark of the night in the last minutes, we are sacrificing what at heart is most important and that we should revere in the public process. And that is what hurts the most…

Some of us, who try to be idealists, are getting cut off at the knees and its not fair to the people of Maine.

This is our last chance. It is now or never.”

– Rep. John Piotti (Unity) House Floor Debate, June 21, 2007

On Tax Reform:

“Every pundit, egg-head, geek, economist, analyst, political analyst, commentator, economic development expert that I’ve ever heard opine on the state of the Maine tax code for the last 13 or 14 years that I’ve had some passive interest in it has said we ought to do two things that are so obvious its like egg on your face – expand the base of the sales tax and reduce the income tax.

There are many ways to skin that little cat. This is one of them. And it’s probably the best one I’ve ever seen…

I’ve heard for an hour-and-a-half or two hours this afternoon so many of us in this Chamber shed what I have to characterize as crocodile tears for the demise of this year’s effort. The expressions of lamentation, the false tears, the expressions of regret – ‘oh if this bill just had this little tweak to this little element, I might be with you’. And you know that half of the speakers this morning weren’t with it in January let alone in June. It’s discouraging…

You want to induce businesses to stay here – stop talking about e-TIFs and TIFs and Pine Tree Zones and BETR and all the other giveaways and get down to basics; bring that rate down…

It is all by itself the most powerful economic development tool that this institution could possibly entertain at this point in time in history. So you got a chance here to express a little courage…

This is taking-the-medicine time…”

– Sen. Peter Mills ( Somerset Cty.) Senate Floor Debate, June 21, 2007

“I don’t disagree with a single word Senator Mills just said.”

– Sen. Joe Perry (Penobscot Cty.) Senate Floor Debate, June 21, 2007

“I agree with 99% of what Senator Mills said.”

– Sen. Richard Nass ( York Cty.) Senate Floor Debate, June 21, 2007

On the Baldacci administration’s stated objection to Tax Reform without corresponding spending control:

“I read in the newspaper that the Governor’s spokesman, David Farmer, said that the chief executive is opposed to dramatic expansion of the sales tax without a corresponding move to control government spending. As the prime sponsor of LD 1021, An Act to Lower the Cost of State Government, I need to relay to this body that at that bill’s public hearing before the State and Local Government Committee, a wide, wide range of people and groups came forward to support that bill to lower the cost of state government by looking at our upper administrative position count and looking at duplication. There was only one entity that came to that public hearing and did not support that bill. That entity was the chief executive. The Governor’s Office would not support my bill to cut $30 million from the cost of State government – which was half of what the Brookings Report had recommended…

A $10 million cut made it into the budget…and for me intensely following my bill through the whole committee process, through the process of being wrapped-into the budget, there was no help that came for my bill, at any time, from the second floor, the chief executive.

Let me put it to you politely, that somehow the chief executive had opposed cutting spending in state government but now he’s opposed to broadening the sales tax because we’re not cutting state government spending – its just totally, totally inconsistent and upsetting to me…

– Sen. John Nutting ( Androscoggin Cty.) Senate Floor Debate, June 21, 2007

On the future of tax reform:

“I’m gonna take the ball. I’m gonna be taking the responsibilities…What I told legislative leadership, both sides of the aisle, was that I’m committed to coming forward with a Governor’s bill that addresses spending cuts, spending controls, teeth in spending caps and also an examination of the tax code in terms of exportability and making sure Maine citizens do not pay an unfair burden of those tax bills that they are subject to now.”

– Governor John Baldacci, Interview on MPBN’s MaineWatch, June 22, 2007

On the Informed Growth Act, which establishes a new state-imposed land use review for certain large retail developments (LD 1810):

“Though the idea is a good one, to preserve our downtowns and support our small business, it doesn’t get to that. It instead sends a message to people that are looking at Maine that we are going to put another hurdle in front of you…We’ll be giving up a lot more than we are gaining with this bill.”

– Sen. Lynn Bromley ( Cumberland Cty.) Senate Floor Debate, June 14, 2007

“It seems to be unduly narrow, very targeted, unfair, and at the end of the day I’m not sure if it even has the capacity or ability to accomplish what the supporters seek.”

– Sen. Richard Rosen (Hancock Cty.) Senate Floor Debate, June 14, 2007

“If a community desires to do as this bill suggests they are perfectly free to enact local legislation through their ordinances to accomplish what this bill would seek to do on a statewide basis…They don’t need a one-size-fits-all emanating from this Chamber.”

– Sen. Karl Turner ( Cumberland Cty.) Senate Floor Debate, June 14, 2007

“It’s very hard to protect some of our communities from themselves. I think a book should be written about the follies of municipal government.”

– Sen. Peter Mills ( Somerset Cty.) Senate Floor Debate, June 14, 2007

With regard to a proposed amendment that would have allowed the “legislative body” of each municipality to decide whether it wanted to opt-out of the obligations created by LD 1810 (the Informed Growth Act):

“Having grown up in a small community in Maine and only having lived in small communities of Maine, it was my understanding that the ‘legislative body’ of those communities was the townsfolk. And that they got together once a year, or more regularly if desired, to have their collective voices heard on their issues. That was the legislative body. And therefore I voted for the good Senator’s amendment to this bill because it seemed to me to be part of our democratic process allowing the people to speak. On further review into that amendment it pained me to find out that in some municipalities, some that I have never lived in and perhaps care not to now, the legislative body is in fact five or nine people who have been elected to represent the people of that particular community and it is that legislative body which will make the decision based on the good Senator’s amendment. That is not what I had intended to support and it is not what I will support now. It is because that group, I have seen it in my own district, for whatever reasons, whether they be self-serving reasons or representative reasons, have often times voted against what I have seen to be the public will. And I don’t want to give them the opportunity to do that again.

– Sen. Dennis Damon (Hancock Cty.) Senate Floor Debate, June 15, 2007

On LD 1511, a Constitutional amendment directing the State Legislature to address over the next 30 years its $4.5 billion unfunded liability caused by the Legislature’s promises to subsidize health insurance for retired state workers and teachers:

“I urge all of you to vote against this Constitutional Amendment. This is a turn-over of the State budget to actuaries.”

– Sen. John Martin ( Aroostook Cty.) Senate Floor Debate, June 21, 2007

“We’re already in hands of actuaries big-time on the pension side of things. The Constitution already provides that we have to meet our obligations on pensions for state employees and teachers. We have to pay-off that actuarially-determined liability by July 1, 2028…

We’re just doing for retiree health obligations in some fashion very parallel to what we did 10-12 years ago with respect to pensions. This is nothing new.”

– Sen. Peter Mills ( Somerset Cty.) Senate Floor Debate, June 21, 2007

On learning that the Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program had determined that LD 1431 was a mandate under Maine’s Constitution since the legislation requires that municipalities with municipal waste facilities must negotiate “host community benefit” agreements with neighboring municipalities:

“I can’t think of any current facilities that are situated in such a way that this will be a problem. This is really more for future facilities, I think.”

– Rep. Duschesne ( Hudson) May 15, 2007

“Well, I’m sick and tired of giving money to municipalities, and they come back and say ‘oh give us more’ whenever you want them to follow and do something right.”  

-   Sen. John Martin ( Aroostook Cty.) May 15, 2007