AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --- Town leaders from around Maine headed to Augusta on Wednesday to address a big issue: how much money should their communities be getting from the state.
Municipal revenue sharing for towns and cities underwent major cuts during 2013 at the pushing of the LePage administration. Now with more state budget deadlines not far away there's the possibility it could happen again.
Lawmakers on the state's appropriations committee got a simple message from leaders of many towns and cities: they don't want to see any further cuts to municipal revenue sharing. This comes as the legislature has to fill a $40 million budget gap to help balance the state budget going forward.
The budget passed last year cut municipal revenue sharing across the state from about $96 million to $64 million. The concern is next year towns and cities could only get $19 million if the state doesn't find other ways to balance the budget.
Lawmakers on the appropriations committee are considering a bill that essentially would do that. On Wednesday many municipal leaders spoke in favor of it while several business leaders say they have concerns.
They say the bill could mean changes for state programs that offer tax breaks, including those for companies that upgrade their equipment.
"Companies like us have done exactly what Maine has asked us to do," said Bill Cohen, who is a spokesperson for Verso Paper Corp, "we invest hundreds of millions of dollars and I guess the question now is are we being punished?"
"Since 2008 our town has had to cut their budget by $1.3 million..which represents 12.5 percent of our $10 million budget," said Presque Isle city councilor Mike Chasse, who spoke in favor of the bill, "it's become an incredible challenge for us to keep taxes at an even level."
Lawmakers will continue working on the bill tied to revenue sharing on Thursday. The $40 million budget hole will need to be filled as the legislature considers a supplemental budget for the state, which is set to take effect in July.