Exclusive Submission to the St. John Valley Times
April 23, 2012
I am writing in response to the April 18, 2012 reporting of LD 1910, An Act to Allow the Town of Fort Kent to Create a Downtown Tax Increment Financing District using the Current Assessed Value of the Downtown”. There were a number of inaccuracies contained within that story.
A little backstory is in order. The purpose of the bill was to provide additional assistance and equity for Fort Kent after the fire decimated its downtown earlier this month. As one of the bill’s sponsors, I worked with Rep. John Martin to carefully craft legislation that could provide real help and real tax relief to the Town of Fort Kent. Our bill took in to consideration the legalities of tax increment financing and educational funding. In fact, we consulted with officials with the state’s Department of Education as well as officials at Maine Revenue Service. And it is our bill that passed in both the House and the Senate.
Your reporting focused on an amendment that was offered by Rep. Peter Edgecomb (R-Caribou) on the House floor. While his amendment was accepted by the House, it was unanimously rejected in the Senate by members from both parties who deemed and agreed that the amendment could not go forward because of the following reasons:
- The amendment was unnecessary because much of the amendment duplicated the original bill;
- The language in the amendment that guided the tax assessment was not in compliance with tax code and therefore the amendment would have been useless in Fort Kent.
- Worse, the amendment, would have had harmful financial consequences to Fort Kent. It limited the TIF to one year which simply is not enough time for the town to be rebuilt. The original bill allows the TIF to extend up to 20 years. As a result of this one-year TIF restriction, the amendment would have denied an increase in General Purpose Aid (GPA) funding for subsequent years beyond that one year. The original bill maintains increased GPA funding until the valuation has been fully restored.
It’s hard to understand why Rep. Edgecomb put forth an amendment without talking to the sponsors of the bill. Rep. Martin and I would gladly have worked with Rep. Edgecomb or any other member of the Legislature to improve or strengthen the bill.
Edgecomb’s assertions that his amendment had no negative effect on the original bill is absolutely false. In fact, it seems that if Rep. Edgecomb had done his homework and actually spoken to officials at DOE and Maine Revenue Services he might have concluded like the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate did, that this amendment was no good.
At this point, I can only conclude that either Rep. Edgecomb doesn’t understand the legislative process or he is more interested in political headlines than accuracy or the best interests of Fort Kent. It’s sad that he is using the misfortune of the devastating fire to try and score political points.