Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Meeting report with State Rep sponsoring $60 million tax subsidy for General Dynamics


By Mary Beth Sullivan

It has been reported in newspapers that State Representative Jennifer DeChant is submitting a bill in this legislative season to provide a $60 million tax subsidy to BIW over the next 20 years.  This Bill would extend Maine's Shipbuilding Facilities Credit which has delivered BIW an annual $3.5 million subsidy since the 1990s.  When she received correspondences opposing this bill, she invited people to her home for a meeting to discuss this bill.  She then changed the venue to the Bath Library, then changed it again to City Hall.

The meeting took place on Thurs, Dec 21. Besides myself and State Rep. Jennifer DeChant, the following people were there: State Sen. Eloise Vitelli (who will be a Senate sponsor of the bill), Brown Lethem, Karen Wainberg, Jerry Provencher, Gary Anderson, Lisa Ledwidg, Lou Ensel and two VFP members who don't live in Bath, John Morris and Peter Morgan.

Martha Spiess showed up early to videotape the event, and Jennifer did not allow that to happen, so Martha left.  I did not know that occurred until I got home and read Martha's email.  I'm sorry that happened.

Jennifer reported that she did not intend for this to be a public meeting; she intended an “informal meeting.” She also reported that she is willing to hold a “public meeting” anytime. I disagree that a meeting held with constituents about pending legislation is something less than public. Transparency should be at the heart of a democratic process. I heard nothing in that meeting that an audience of Mainers would not benefit from knowing. 

Jennifer ran the meeting.  As I understood the basics:  she was asked by a constituent (BIW) to submit a bill to allow BIW to continue to receiving the tax break it has been receiving for the last 20 years. She agreed. The language for the bill is being written; it is in the legislature's Revisor's Office; BIW lawyers are assisting in drafting the language; it is important to her that language using some of these dollars for 'training' is in the bill.

Jennifer and Louise described that the process is this:  the bill's language will be completed soon.  The Taxation Committee will take it up, and hold a public hearing.  By law, the Taxation Committee needs to hold a public hearing, and give a 10-day notice to the public. When people come to the hearing, they can speak for three minutes on the bill and submit something in writing to the committee. The next step is a work session.  The public is allowed to attend, but not to speak or participate.  Then, if it passed out of committee, the bill goes to the floor. If passed, it goes to the Governor to sign.

I perceived the conversation that ensued as civil, lively, honest and blunt. Many of those attending had many questions, and expressed opposition to the bill.  My notes cannot do justice to the great questions and concerns that were expressed; I urge those who attended to add to this email any of the important exchanges that should be shared.

We were urged to pay attention to the Taxation Committee agenda (Jennifer said we could sign up as friends of the taxation committee to be apprised by email of when the hearings will happen) and to show up at the hearing to express our opposition.  Jennifer also urged us to stay in touch with her if we have any questions along the way.

Thanks to all for paying attention to this issue.  It is never too early to contact your local reps/senators to express your opinion of this bill. Consider letting them know that BIW is a strong, capable, successful shipbuilding company.  At $4 billion of taxpayers dollars a ship, they (and their parent company, General Dynamics) should certainly be able to budget well enough to meet their financial responsibilities.  On the other hand, Maine is constantly stressed in its efforts to meet the needs of its constituents impacted by a decaying physical, educational, medical and social infrastructure.  Create a vision for what you think might be a higher priority for the $3 million a year over the next 20 years, and share it with your State Representatives and Senators.

If you have not yet seen it please watch the interview with emeritus USM Law professor Orlando Delogu who discusses this tax subsidy - watch it here

Thanks for you attention and activity around this issue.

In peace,
Mary Beth Sullivan
Bath, Maine

1 Comments:

Anonymous Brother Jonah said...

We're going to have such a nice time at the Town Hall meetings which "our" Representative Doug Lamborn here in southern Colorado, Plutarch Extraordinaire, We've got 18 acknowledged Military Reservations (the absurd term for the equally absurd "federal municipalities") within a 50 mile radius. There will be some very well trusted Air Force and Army and even (!) Naval personnel giving soft questions and taking up time that local citizens could use to ask HONEST Questions of the esteemed elder statesman. Bets there will be a prepared answer for each prepared propaganda 'question' thrown to His Highness?

An Other gambling metaphor is that it would be better odds for the citizens to get a word in edgewise if we instead go to a casino with marked card and weighted dice. I bet further there will be more cops than local civilians.

Sunday morning is sometimes a very discouraging time... It's not yet dawn here so I might get a better 'tude going soon.

12/24/17, 8:28 AM  

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