Senator Breen, Representative Pierce, and members of the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs. My name is Pete Didisheim, I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and I appreciate the opportunity to testify in support of LD 1733, An Act To Provide Allocations for the Distribution of State Fiscal Recovery Funds.
We strongly support the Administration’s proposed Jobs & Recovery Plan, which provides the framework for allocating nearly one billion dollars in American Rescue Plan funds that Maine will receive to assist with our economic recovery from the pandemic.
Many of the elements in the Administration’s Jobs & Recovery Plan correlate directly with specific recommendations from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and Maine’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy, as described in materials provided to the Committee by the Administration. Several elements of the Jobs & Recovery Plan also align strongly with top recommendations found in Maine’s Climate Action Plan, Maine Won’t Wait.
The American Rescue Act funds allocated to Maine have the potential to strengthen Maine’s economy and create jobs in the near-term, while also providing many long-term benefits. NRCM is particularly supportive of the following items in the Administration’s proposed Jobs & Recovery Plan proposal:
- $50 million for state parks Maine’s State Parks are among our crown jewels for recreation and tourism economy, but they have become tarnished over the years due to lack of investment. With record visitation numbers during the pandemic, we have learned that Maine people and visitors alike greatly value what our parks have to offer. The proposed $50 million in funding will help keep our State Parks vital, through urgently needed capital investment and maintenance projects. These funds will support jobs through structural repairs of park roads, bridges, shelters, upgrades in plumbing and sanitation facilities, and staff housing
- $21 million for broadband (in addition to the $129 million from the American Rescue Plan Act Critical Infrastructure Fund). We agree that the lack of high-speed broadband access for communities across Maine has caused significant hardships during the pandemic. These investments in creation of effective, affordable high-speed internet access will provide benefits for education, health care, and economic development. Maine’s Climate Action Plan, Maine Won’t Wait (MWW), also identifies the deployment of high-speed broadband as a high priority for achieving energy savings and emission reductions, including by reducing vehicle miles traveled through remote work. (MWW, pg 44)
- $50M for energy efficiency These funds will assist Maine people and businesses reduce energy bills through investments in energy efficiency and heating and ventilation upgrades. Emissions of carbon dioxide also will be reduced as Maine accelerates weatherization and efficiency upgrades for Maine homes. We strongly support the proposed allocation of $25 million in funding for low-income Mainers and renters; $15 million for matching funds to assist municipal, county, school, and community organizations secure efficiency grants; and $10 million for businesses. Because the heating, cooling, and lighting of buildings is responsible for almost one-third of Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions, Maine’s climate action plan elevates the recommendation of accelerating efficiency improvements to existing buildings, with the goal of doubling the current pace of home weatherization by 2025 and weatherizing at least 35,000 homes and businesses by 2030. This work will support and create hundreds of jobs. (MWW, pg. 11).
- $25 million for drinking water and $25 million for wastewater infrastructure NRCM strongly supports these investments for critical infrastructure improvements in water treatment plants and associated systems, and in municipal wastewater and infrastructure projects. Maine has significant backlogs in both of these areas. The proposed funds can help leverage additional federal funding, while contributing to public health, reducing costs for local rate payers, and creating construction jobs. The investments in wastewater treatment infrastructure can also help protect shellfish harvesting jobs, and those tourism jobs that depend on clean coastal waters.
- $8M for clean energy partnership This initiative will help improve the pipeline of skilled labor who can seek good-paying jobs in the energy sector, including energy efficiency and renewable energy. Businesses currently operating in these fields report that they have many vacancies and face difficulties recruiting the skilled labor needed to help advance Maine’s clean energy, climate, and economic recovery goals. We support the multiple initiatives proposed as part of this Clean Energy Partnership, and we note that Maine’s climate action plan and the report, Strengthening Maine’s Clean Energy Economy, authored by the Governor’s Energy Office, identified workforce development as a high priority.
- $8M for electric vehicle charging stations and infrastructure We strongly support the proposal that would enable the Department of Transportation to expand state, municipal, and other publicly accessible charging stations for electric vehicles. This initiative supports tourism, especially the growing tourist demand for electric vehicles charging stations, and also contributes toward the high-priority goal in Maine’s climate action plan of accelerating Maine’s transition to electric vehicles. Because transportation represents the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, Maine’s climate action plan established ambitious goals for the electrification of transportation systems. (MWW, pg. 10).
- $4 million to support DEP licensing As the Maine Department of Environmental Protection receives a high volume of land use permit applications, it needs additional technical experts to manage the workload necessary to support economic recovery and job growth.
I appreciate this opportunity to testify and encourage the AFA Committee to vote Ought to Pass on the Administration’s recovery plan expenditures as proposed through LD 1733.