Representatives highlight funding needs for caregivers, infrastructure funding, education funding and more
AUGUSTA — A broad collection of more than 120 organizations and businesses representing nearly every facet of the state’s economy, livelihood, and quality of life joined together today to urge the Legislature to reconvene to complete its unfinished business. The issues left on the table cut across all sectors and industries from direct care workers, to transportation funding to education funding, the concerns expressed today impact nearly every citizen of the state.
“We respectfully ask you to return to work,” said Dana Connors, Executive Director of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “We are nearing essential timelines where impacts from inaction will create significant difficulties for the people of Maine. Now is the time for Maine to show leadership to demonstrate that despite our differences we can still work together. Let’s ensure that our essential services, educational funding, economic opportunities and critical decisions by Maine businesses and agencies will continue without delay.”
Among the hundreds of bills hanging in the balance, is an increase in state reimbursement rates for direct care workers, including those who work in nursing homes and homes for those with intellectual disabilities.
“MaineCare rates paid to providers for services for people with intellectual disabilities have not been increased in over a decade,” said Lydia Dawson, Executive Director of the Maine Association for Community Service Providers. “Many receiving this service have extreme medical and behavioral needs and have nowhere else to go to receive the support they need. Homes and programs will close because the rate will no longer support even the required minimum wage. If providers are forced to close homes and programs because they cannot sustain the cut, individuals will lose their essential and medically necessary supports.”
Funding for upgrading, maintaining and replacing Maine’s aging road infrastructure and bridges face significant shortfalls. If the legislature fails to approve a bond referendum this year, the department’s current three-year work plan will need to be drastically reduced by some $80 million. The Maine Department of Transportation cannot invest in transportation infrastructure if these anticipated funds fail to materialize, DOT will be forced to cut projects from the capital work plan. The current bonding amount represents roughly one-third of the highway and bridge programs for 2019.
At the same time, Maine’s wastewater facilities are facing similar shortfalls. A proposed $50 million bond bill that will leverage an additional $71 million and create or sustain 2,186 jobs awaits legislative action.
“The impacts to the construction industry will be enormous if a comprehensive bond package is not passed,” said Matt Timberlake, President of the Ted Berry Company and a board member of the Associated General Contractors of Maine. “This includes impacts to DOT’s workplan, risk of losing Federal TIGER grants, and another year we don’t make major wastewater improvements. Investing in water infrastructure is good for our economy, our bottom line, and our environment. The maintenance and upgrade of these largely invisible yet essential wastewater infrastructure assets are important to protecting public health and water quality, supporting the economy and providing economic growth.”
Also awaiting legislative action is consideration of a bond that would invest $75 million in workforce development infrastructure across the University of Maine System and be matched by private and other public funds. Planned projects would create construction jobs in a dozen Maine communities and modernize and expand classrooms and labs that prepare students for good paying jobs in occupations where Maine most needs workers like nursing, engineering, education and other high-growth STEM professions.
“Maine’s employers say our graduates are their top talent – they just need more of them. But the current condition and capacity of our facilities is costing us students at a time when Maine needs more graduates,” said University of Maine System Chancellor James H. Page. “Just like roads and bridges, our campuses are critical public infrastructure essential to the state’s economic prosperity. To ensure Maine’s workforce is prepared for the future, the time to invest is now.”
In all, some 130 organizations joined together for today’s announcement. They include: 30 Mile River Land Trust, A.W. Madden Inc, AAA Northern New England, Affinity, Alliance for Addiction & Mental Health Services, Alternative Services Northeast Inc, American Council of Engineering Companies, Amicus, Ascentria Community Services Inc, Assistance Plus, Associated General Contractors of Maine, Babineau Logging & Trucking, Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Bitumar USA, Bridge to Success Inc, Brunswick Sewer District, Cianbro, C.M. Cimino Inc, CAFÉ Inc, CASA Inc, Casco Bay Engineering, Central Aroostook Association, Charlotte White Center, Children’s Center, Children’s Odyssey, Coastal Opportunities, Community Living Association, Conservation Law Foundation, CPM Constructors, Creative Options LLC, Creative Work Systems, Crooker Construction, Danforth Habilitation Association, Davis Forestry Products Inc, Downeaster Horizons, Elmhurst Inc, Families Matter Inc, Friends of Casco Bay, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Gallant Therapy Services Inc, Grow Smart Maine, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, Great Bay Services, Green Valley Association, Group Main Stream Inc, H.B. Fleming Inc, Hope Association, Independence Advocates of Maine Inc, Independence Association Inc, ISC for ME, J.P. Martin & Sons Construction, Joint Environment Training Coordinating Committee, KFI, Lakes Environmental Association, Landry/French Construction, LEAP Inc, LifeShare Inc, Lincolnville Beach Sanitary Facility, Linkletter & Sons, Living Innovations, Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, Maine Association for Community Service Partners, Maine Association for Community Support Workers, Maine Audubon, Maine Better Transportation Association, Maine Community Action Association, Maine County Commissioners Association, Maine Conservation Voters, Maine Drilling & Blasting, Maine Equal Justice Partners, Maine Lakes Society, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Maine Professional Loggers Association, Maine Rural Water Association, Maine School Management Association, Maine Section American Society of Civil Engineers, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Maine Vocational & Rehabilitation Association, Maine Water Environment Association, Maine Water Utilities Association, Mayor’s Coalition, MERT Enterprises, Midcoast Conservancy, Mobius, Momentum, Morrison Developmental Center, Natural Resources Council of Maine, New Communities, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control, Northern Aroostook Alternatives Inc, Northern Maine General, OHI, Opportunities Enterprises Inc, PCS Family Homes, Peregrine Corporation, Personal Onsite Development, Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine Chapter, Pike Industries, Pratt and Sons, Port Resources Inc, Prevent Harm, R.J. Grondin & Sons, Reed & Reed Inc, Residential Resources of ME Inc, Sargent Corporation, Shaw Brothers Construction, Shooting Star Program, Skills Inc, Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative, Special Children’s Friends, Spectrum Generations, Spurwink Services, St. John Valley Associates Inc, Sunrise Opportunities, Support Solutions, Ted Berry Company, The Nature Conservancy, The Progress Center, The Structural Engineers Association of Maine, Town of Jay Sewer Department, Tri-County Mental Health Services, University of Maine System, United Cerebral Palsy of Northeastern Maine, Uplift Inc, Vannah Logging, Voisine Brothers Inc, Waban Projects Inc, Woodfords Family Services, Work First Inc, Work Opportunities Unlimited.