Entries Filed in 'Business & Innovation'

Maine to get $600,000 to help increase value of crops grown in the state

April 18th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Community Maine, News from Washington

1044461_637727639590596_2065773848_n1Maine will get $600,000 in Specialty Crop Block Grants, a 50 percent increase over the previous year’s funding. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, who serves on the Appropriations Committee that sets funding levels for the US Department of Agriculture, successfully pushed for a significant increase in funding for the program.

“This is great news for Maine and will help support the state’s farmers,” said Pingree. “Whether it’s a blueberry grower Down East or a small vegetable farm in western Maine, this grant money will help farmers increase the value of their crops through research, planning, and educational programs. Farmers can do a lot with a little bit of money and this funding will go a long way in helping grow Maine’s farm economy.

‘Specialty crops’ are really the food that most consumers eat—apples, tomatoes and carrots for example. This program provides funding for research and marketing to help raise the value of these crops. Last year Maine got $400,000 in funding and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry divided the money up for eight projects around the state.

The 2014 Farm Bill, which sets the nation’s agriculture policy every five years, was signed into law by President Obama earlier this year. Pingree wrote and advocated for numerous provisions that will promote local agriculture, sustainable farming, and help young farmers.

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Lawmakers pass East Coast’s first ocean acidification bill

April 18th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Environment, Farming

The Legislature on Thursday passed the East Coast’s first bill to address the threat of ocean acidification as the Senate gave the measure its final approval with a vote of 33-0. The bill, LD 1602, now goes to Gov. Paul LePage.

“Maine has the opportunity to lead on this issue,” said Rep. Mick Devin, the bill’s sponsor and a marine biologist. “The overwhelming support for my bill shows that Maine understands that ocean acidification is a real problem. It poses a threat to our coastal environment and the jobs that depend on it. We must address this threat head-on.”

The measure would establish a commission to study and address the negative effects of ocean acidification on the ecosystem and major inshore shellfisheries. The committee membership would be made up of stakeholders including fishermen, aquaculturists, scientists and legislators.

Rising levels of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use are causing changes in ocean chemistry. As carbon dioxide and seawater combine, carbonic acid forms. Carbonic acid can dissolve the shells of shellfish, an important commercial marine resource. Over the past two centuries, ocean acidity levels have increased 30 percent.

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Maine lawmakers pass $50 million job bond plan

April 18th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Economy

The Legislature on Thursday passed a $50 million bond plan to boost job creation by small businesses and invest in key sectors of the state’s economy and clean water infrastructure.

“Democrats and Republicans came together to make critical investments in our economy,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “This is a positive step towards boosting jobs by building on the best of Maine.”

The plan is made up of six separate measures. Each received two-thirds approval in both chambers of the Legislature on Thursday.

The largest of the six proposals would invest $12 million to recapitalize the Regional Economic Development Loan Program and the Commercial Loan Insurance Programs — proven financing programs that help promising small business on the cusp of job creation access capital.

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LePage urged to sign new law to stop multinationals from evading taxes and level field for Maine businesses

April 17th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Taxes

Maine's capitol at night, photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine’s capitol at night, photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine’s lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill to stop multinational corporations from dodging Maine taxes through accounting tricks. The bill now goes to Gov. Paul LePage for his John Hancock. LD 1120, An Act To Improve Maine’s Tax Laws, would level the playing field for Maine-based businesses by preventing tax evasion by multinational corporations that use tax code loopholes to make it seem as though the income was generated elsewhere.

“Democrats are calling on the governor to do the right thing for Maine businesses and taxpayers,” said Rep. Adam Goode, the bill’s sponsor. “Sign this bill, close loopholes exploited by huge multinational corporations and stop tax evasion that puts our small businesses at a competitive disadvantage.”

Under the measure, corporations would have to report income from a list of 38 known offshore tax havens.

Maine loses $10 million in each two-year budget period, according to an estimate made by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review with help from Maine Revenue Services. This revenue could be used for priorities like revenue sharing, increased property tax fairness credits, early education, Clean Elections or helping seniors afford prescriptions.

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Lawmakers reach agreement on $50 million jobs bond plan to boost small businesses, marine economy, protect clean water

April 16th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Community Maine

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Lawmakers on Wednesday reached an agreement on a $50 million plan to boost job creation by small businesses and invest in key sectors of the state’s economy and clean water infrastructure.

“Democrats and Republicans came together to make critical investments in our economy,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “This is a positive step towards boosting jobs by building on the best of Maine.”

The plan is made up of six separate measures.

The largest of the six bond proposals would invest $12 million to recapitalize the Regional Economic Development Loan Program and the Commercial Loan Insurance Programs — proven financing programs that help promising small business on the cusp of job creation access capital.

“The small business portion of the plan will push our economy forward by spurring job creation in the near-term. It’s just what Maine needs as it continues to shake off the effects of the recession, ” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry, the House chair of the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future, which developed five of the six elements in the bond plan. “Providing access to capital to innovative small businesses will help Maine grow good-paying jobs in 21st century fields.”

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Bill that would have provided rebates for heat pumps and solar panels blocked by Republicans

April 16th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Energy Issues, Environment

Electrician installing solar panels on the roof of a building. Both lawmakers agree more R&D bonds are necessary to grow a clean an innovative economy.

Electrician installing solar panels on the roof of a building. Most lawmakers agreed solar rebates would help Maine grow a clean an innovative economy.But extreme Tea Party Republicans blocked the effort.

In a 22-13 vote, the Senate Republicans sustained Governor LePage’s veto of a bill that would have provided rebates for solar panels and heat pumps for low-income Mainers. Overriding a veto requires two-thirds, or 24 Senate votes.

The Senate originally supported the measure in a vote of 22-12. Republican Senator Ron Collins initially supported the bill then flipped his vote and supported Governor LePage’s veto.The measure would have reestablished the solar rebate program under Efficiency Maine and helped Mainers install more than 1,250 new solar panels and heat pumps at Maine homes and businesses.

“This bill would have created jobs in an emerging industry and helped low-income Mainers heat their homes,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson. “Why would you oppose jobs for Maine, or assistance for the elderly and low-income Mainers struggling to pay their oil bills? It’s disappointing Governor LePage’s veto spree has once again hurt our economy and hurt some of our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Maine spends $5 billion per year importing fossil fuels and is the most petroleum-dependent state for home heating, with more than 70 percent of households using it as their primary heating source. According to a 2010 report, rooftop solar panels alone could provide 24 percent of Maine’s electricity.

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Jackson’s thermal energy bill to look at renewable biomass for energy production becomes law

April 15th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Community Maine, Creative Economy, Energy Issues, Maine's green energy potential

The Senate unanimously gave final approval to a bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson to study the potential benefits of biomass for renewable energy.The measure directs the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to complete a comprehensive study on the potential benefits and barriers to making thermal energies eligible for the State of Maine’s renewable energy portfolio standard. This standard is a regulation that requires at least 30% of energy production in Maine to come from renewable energy sources.

“With more and more Mainers struggling to heat their homes, we need to explore alternative sources for energy,” said Senator Jackson of Allagash. “Biomass is one option for renewable energy, and this study will help us determine the role it could play in Maine’s energy future.”

As part of the study, the PUC will review the legislative actions of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maryland to add thermal energies to their portfolios. The PUC will report their findings to the Legislature in 2015. The measure, LD 1468 “Resolve, Directing the Public Utilities Commission To Study the Potential Benefits and Barriers Involved in Making Renewable Thermal Technologies Eligible for Qualification in Maine’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard”, will be sent to Governor LePage for his signature.

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Solar energy bill caught in LePage veto spree

April 12th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Energy Issues

Installing solar panels in Maine. photo by Ramona du Houx

Installing solar panels in Maine. photo by Ramona du Houx

A bill that would provide rebates for solar panels as well as heat pump rebates for low-income Mainers was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage on Friday. The proposal would have brought back solar rebates put in place with the Baldacci Administration.

“We need to look at the big picture when it comes to energy. We simply can’t afford to ignore solar energy, which is renewable, clean and helps keep down electricity bills that are rising because of the expansion of transmission and distribution lines,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terry Morrison. “This veto is even more baffling because a Republican amendment improved the bill by adding heat pump rebates for low-income Mainers. It’s a win-win measure that I hope lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will continue to support.”

Not only does LD 1252 reestablish the solar rebate program under Efficiency Maine it would also help more than 1,250 new solar panel and hot water projects at Maine homes and businesses. The bill that was vetoed was crafted in a bipartisan manner with the addition of an amendment from Rep. Lance Harvell, that would provide Mainers who qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program with rebates for heat pumps.

“Solar power is a huge untapped resource in Maine and making it more affordable for Maine families is just common sense. We receive more sunshine than any other New England state, but we are last in the Northeast when it comes to using the sun’s energy to power our homes and businesses. This bill would create jobs, help us fight against global climate disruption, and save Mainers money. Unfortunately, since taking office Gov. LePage has put his own partisan ideology ahead of sound policy, good science and clean, renewable energy development in Maine,” said Congressman Mike Michaud. “By investing in Maine’s renewable energy advantage, we can attract billions of dollars in private-sector investments, create jobs and drive down energy costs for Maine businesses and families.”

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Defeat of LePages election year “Business Zones” bill

April 11th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news

Maine State Capitol, photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol, photo by Ramona du Houx

The Maine Senate voted today 22-13 to defeat LD 1835, Governor LePage’s proposal for business incentive zones that included language that would have weakened workers’ rights inside the zones. The bill would have diminished the value of the already established Pine Tree Zone tax incentive program put in place by the Baldacci Administration. In exchange for tax breaks companies certified as PTDZ’s have to add jobs with healthcare and be beneficial to their communities. Le Page wanted to make PTDZ’s for big corporations while limiting union participation.

“The anti-worker provisions of the bill are illegal. They are an ideologically motivated effort to lower worker’s wages and eliminate unions as an important check and balance on corporate power in our economy. Workers in so called right to work state earn $1500 less per year. That’s the wrong direction for Maine,” said Don Berry, President of the Maine AFL-CIO. “LD 1835 was not a real economic development strategy or plan. This is “lottery ticket” economic development from the LePage Administration – wishing and hoping that if we give away enough tax dollars some big company will magically come. It doesn’t work.”

Gov. John E. Baldacci with workers at a lumber company celebrating the company's Pine Tree Development status. photo by Ramona du Houx

Gov. John E. Baldacci with workers at a lumber company celebrating the company’s Pine Tree Development status. photo by Ramona du Houx

“Maine businesses have not come to us once to ask for this kind of proposal,” Rep. Anne Marie Mastraccio, who serves on the state’s Labor and Workforce Development committees. “It’s not good for Maine people and it’s not good for Maine businesses or workers. It’s the wrong approach to boosting our economy.”

Multiple studies have documented that 95 percent of all new jobs in Maine are created by existing businesses expanding and new businesses starting up. A review of the top 50 employers in Maine, shows that all of them are homegrown companies, with the exception of the national retailers or chains, which are in every state.

“The LePage Administration has left thousands of jobs on the table by vetoing Medicaid extension and a minimum wage increase and holding bonds hostage. This bill is nothing more than an effort to whitewash the failed economic development record of the LePage Administration,” added Berry.

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Charitable Solicitations Act is clarified so restaurants like Augusta’s Red Barn are not punished

April 10th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news

A bill that would cut red tape for businesses raising money for charity was enacted by the Maine Senate with strong bipartisan support Wednesday and sent to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature.Earlier in the week, the House voted for Fowle’s bill unanimously. The Senate vote was 32-0.

“Maine’s small businesses should be allowed to raise money for a good cause without having to fear they have done something wrong,” said Rep. Lori Fowle, the bill’s primary sponsor. “I am thankful my colleagues on both sides of the aisle welcome local employers’ desire to be good citizens of the communities they serve.”

Fowle represents a small part of northeast Augusta that includes the Red Barn restaurant. In late 2013, the owner of Red Barn received a letter from the Attorney General’s Office informing her that the many charity events the restaurant had hosted and organized violated Maine’s Charitable Solicitations Act.

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