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.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Day 29: Maine Taxation Committee trims GD/BIW corporate welfare request by 25%


Last Tuesday (March 6) Maine's state legislative Taxation Committee held its final Work Session on LD 1781 - the corporate welfare bill for General Dynamics (GD).

We were shut out of the meeting as BIW workers were bused in two hours prior to the start in order to fill all the seats keeping everyone else out.  So several of us sat in the hallway while others went into a room across the hall where the hearing was piped in.

Most of the hearing was the sausage making process of talking about amended language to the bill.  In the end committee members voted 9-2 'Ought to pass' which in Maine is a recommendation to the full legislature in favor of the bill.

It was only the next day that we heard that the Taxation Committee actually had cut the requested $60 million corporate subsidy bill by 25% to $45 million over 15 years instead of the original 20 year period.

Committee co-chair Rep. Ryan Tipping (D-Orono) wrote one of his constituents the following:

In response to your question, both major papers got it wrong. The last series of amendments articulated by Rep. Grant shortened the program by five years and left the same dollar per year cap in place. The total amount, barring acceleration due to massive new hiring, is $45mil. Still a hefty price tag.
RT
Just to make sure I sent an email to a reporter from the Portland Press Herald who sat through the entire committee work session and wrote a story saying that the $60 million bill has passed the committee by the 9-2 vote.  I wondered if he had heard of the cut to $45 million.  This is what he wrote back to me:

That certainly wasn’t what I thought they were voting on. And if it’s true then they did an absolutely horrible job of sharing with the public what, exactly, they were voting on.

I’ll see what I can find out. Thank you very much for letting me know. Obviously there are a bunch more votes still to come on this.

I've yet to hear back from that reporter.

But then yesterday we saw that The Free Press newspaper out of Rockland, Maine (which many people say is the best newspaper in the state) carried an article by its editor Andy O'Brien (a former state legislator) that reported:

The Legislature’s Taxation Committee voted 9-2 Tuesday to deliver a controversial $45 million tax break to Bath Iron Works. LD 1781 would provide the company with $3 million in tax incentives per year over the next 15 years on the condition that it keeps current employment levels and invests at least $200 million in the shipyard. The amended bill marks a decrease of $15 million from the original version, which would have renewed the 20-year, $60 million Shipbuilding Tax Credit enacted in 1997. The measure will now go to the House and Senate for a vote.
So it is now clear to us that two big things have happened during our statewide campaign to oppose this GD corporate welfare bill here in Maine.  First, the largest of four unions at BIW (local S6 Machinists) has declined to endorse the bill which is a huge public relations blow to BIW/GD.  Secondly the Taxation Committee rather quietly, and still largely unnoticed, has cut the bill by 25%.

This indicates that this campaign has in fact created major citizen opposition across the state and has forced these initial changes.  But we are not going to rest on our laurels.  We are going to press on hard to knock out the whole corporate subsidy bill.  That means we need Mainers to pile on now and help us push this bad piece of legislation over the cliff.  You can show your support by clicking here

In 2013 BIW/GD came to the City of Bath and requested a tax break in the amount of $6.7 million from our very poor city.  About six of us ran a city-wide campaign, including going door-to-door, and resident outrage forced the reluctant city council to cut the request in half.  If the citizens of Bath (who live alongside BIW) can do that then the state of Maine can say NO as well.

We've got hugely neglected issues in this state that need that $45 million - which is peanuts to GD.  So full steam ahead.

Bruce

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