Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine
in favor of LD 1437, “An Act to Implement the Recommendations of Reinventing Maine Government”
January 24, 2012
Senator Rector, Representative Prescott, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development; My name is Nancy Smith, I live in Monmouth, and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine. As many of you know from our previous interactions with the committee, GrowSmart Maine is the only statewide non-profit organization working at the intersection of our communities, the economy and the environment.
As a part of our commitment to strengthening Maine’s economy, GrowSmart Maine is particularly enthusiastic about well grounded, thoughtful and creative proposals which seek to grow the economy in a sustainable manner while at the same time preserving our state’s unique character. We believe this bill fits that description, and I’m eager to engage in the conversations today and afterwards, as we all seek to measure the impact related to the various reports highlighted in the bill summary.
I’d like to share with you my connection with these reports:
Charting Maine’s Future; GrowSmart Maine brought the Brookings Institution to Maine and was a key partner throughout the research process and in distributing the final report. We now focus on implementation of key action plan steps.
Time for Change, the Final Report of the Joint Select Committee on Future Maine Prosperity; I served on this committee as House Chair of BRED.
Measures of Growth in Focus, by the Maine Economic Growth Council of MDF; I served on the Council for the 2010 and 2011 reports and also made a point to highlight these benchmarks as the committee evaluated various bills.
(I still have a poster of the 2010 benchmarks, now in the GSM offices.)
Reinventing Maine Government by Envision Maine, was commissioned by GrowSmart Maine because more effective government on all levels will make available private and public resources for the investments recommended in the original report, Charting Maine’s Future.
Although I can claim no connection the now 3-part series on Making Maine Work by the Maine Development Foundation and Maine State Chamber of Commerce, I am a strong supporter of this effort for bringing essential attention to the issues outlined in the reports.
I’m very pleased that Sen. Woodbury is drawing attention to the incredible potential held in these reports. I’d also like to recommend inclusion of another report in the process being proposed through this legislation, “The 2010 Maine Science and Technology Plan, A Bold Approach to Stimulate Maine’s Economy”, created by the Office of Innovation, within the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. http://www.maine.gov/decd/innovation/reports_and_publications/index.shtml
I’d like to provide a brief summary of our efforts in the coming year, as Sen. Woodbury mentioned in his opening remarks. I believe our work will be quite compatible with what is proposed in LD 1437. GrowSmart Maine continues its ongoing efforts in advocacy, and community planning projects such as our current effort, ReEnvisioning the Highway Strip, and the network weaving that is core to our work, as we bring the right people together to take on issues that matter most to Maine.
In addition, this year we are developing Charting Maine’s Future 2020: Results. Impact. Action. This is not a new report; far from it! It is an assessment of actions to date, highlighting good work going on across the state.
On the attached handout, “An Action Plan for Promoting Sustainable Prosperity in Maine” you will see the key recommendations of Charting Maine’s Future. Real progress has occurred in many of these areas, although I found this is seldom reflected in conversations around the state. We created a scorecard to document the results, and that step is easy enough, although in need of regular updates. In the coming year, we’ll be highlighting the IMPACT of those results on communities and businesses; on Mainers across the state. In addition, we will update the action plan to reflect Maine’s current opportunities. As we gather the facts, figures, and dollar values tied to each strategy, we will share the stories that tell the true impact on Maine.
This process will likely lead us to, and provide the agenda for, a GrowSmart Maine Summit in October, where Mainers will come together to share what they’ve accomplished, learn from each other, and leave newly empowered to continue good work in their own communities and businesses.
I’ve selected a few action plan strategies to highlight, as you’ll see in the notes attached to my testimony. I encourage you all to connect with us at our website, www.growsmartmaine.org, where we’ll be reaching out for these stories, and will keep you posted on these efforts.
I see the concept recommended by Senator Woodbury in this bill as being essential, and highly compatible with the efforts of GrowSmart Maine and the others gathered here. While we focus on a broad range of strategies, this singular focus on required legislative efforts is needed for Maine to achieve its full potential; that of creating a strong and sustainable economy in a way that strengthens our people and our incredible natural and built quality places.
I look forward to working with the LCRED committee, the bill sponsor, and all engaged Mainers. Thank you for the opportunity to present these remarks.
Charting Maine’s Future 2020
A Few Results to Date
Invest in a Place-based and Innovation-focused Economy
Community for Maine’s Future bond passed in June 2010, $3.5MM disbursed to 11 towns across the state in late 2011.
Land for Maine’s Future continues to enjoy broad support across the state. Although the Fund is currently empty, there have been numerous bonds to support working and natural land conservation, working waterfront, and state parks.
Maine Technology Asset Fund, administered through Maine Technology Institute. As with LMF, the MTAF has enjoyed several successful bond issues focused on research and development. In addition, last October MTI received a $3MM gift from Blackstone Charitable Foundation to enhance entrepreneurship and innovation in Maine.
Support Revitalization of Maine’s Towns & Cities while Channeling Growth
New Model Building and Rehabilitation Codes: Maine currently has in place the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code, which includes a code for existing buildings. MUBEC is in effect for communities with populations above 4,000 as well as those smaller communities that choose to adopt it.
Maine Downtown Center funding, as supported by this committee, has enabled the MDC to expand its outreach to even more communities.
Model codes and ordinances: The town of Standish adopted form-based codes for its Standish Village in 2011. In addition, Cultivating Maine's Agricultural Future: New Guide for Towns Looking to Encourage Local Farming was released by Maine Farmland Trust in 2011, and includes numerous model ordinances to support farming throughout Maine.
Maine’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit was greatly improved in 2008, and last year the sunset provision was extended to 2023. An economic impact report produced last year demonstrates the success of this effort. In just two years, this tax credit resulted in 22 projects in 14 communities across seven counties. $125 million has been invested here in Maine, creating 700 construction jobs and 200 long term jobs.
Trim Government to Invest in Maine’s Economy & to Finance Tax Reform
Income tax reduction passed as part of Tax Reform in the 124th Legislature, and was then overturned in voter referendum June 2010. It passed as component of state budget in 2011, to be effective Jan. 1, 2013.
Property taxes were addressed in 2005, through LD 1, although the goal of state general fund paying 55% funding of education has yet to be achieved.
Charting Maine’s Future recommended creation of a BRAC-like Maine Government Efficiency Commission to locate program savings. Maine now has in place the Office of Program Evaluation & Government Accountability (OPEGA). ReInventing Maine Government was published in the fall of 2010 to further such efforts.
This is just a short list of documented results tying back to Charting Maine’s Future.
What will follow is a measure of the impact these investments and policy changes have had throughout Maine, one community, one business at a time.
In Charting Maine’s Future 2020, GrowSmart Maine will look beyond the data, and capture the impact of these changes across Maine. We will ensure that updated strategies reflect Maine today, and empower people across the state to continue that work that is resulting in real change in their communities.
We’ll be working to highlight the successes since 2006, adjust the action plan to reflect today’s challenges and strategies, and continue to bring the right people together to take on the issues that matter most for Maine.