Bipartisan measure critical to preventing increases in property taxes
After a strong vote in the Senate, House Democrats along with some House Republicans united Monday to advance a bill that provides desperately needed funding to support Maine’s county jails.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from sheriffs and other county officials from across rural Maine,” said House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “We need this solution to protect property taxpayers, especially for residents of areas like Somerset County where other factors like inadequate education funding and falling valuations of key properties are already squeezing them.”
As amended, LD 1614, Resolve, to Provide Funding for the County Jail Operations Fund, provides approximately $2.4 million for fiscal year 2016 for Maine’s county and regional jails. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kim Rosen, R-Hancock, earned a strong 102-44 vote in the House.
“Today, lawmakers voted to protect Maine’s cities and towns from bearing rising costs that could lead to devastating tax increases for Maine’s families,“ said Rep. Lori Fowle, D-Vassalboro, House chair of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. “We found a way to connect our county jails with the resources they desperately need and protect our families at the same time.”
Despite support from all House members on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, both Republican and Democratic (two senators voted against the bill), and a strong earlier vote on the House floor, House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, and Assistant Minority Leader Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, voted against the bill.
In testimony before the Criminal Justice Committee, Lincoln County jail administrators said a 9 percent funding cut from 2015 to 2016 has left them inadequately funded and has led to staff layoffs. The Oxford County jail faces even more dire circumstances and will be forced into insolvency in 2017 if ongoing deficits are not addressed.