AUGUSTA — Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, introduced legislation to help Maine residents and small business owners deal with the sudden increase in electric rates at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee on Tuesday.
“Too many Mainers have been buried not only by snow this winter but by soaring energy costs. The sky-high price of natural gas driving up electric rates is forcing Maine businesses owners to decide between keeping their lights on or keeping their doors open. It’s forcing working families and older residents to decide whether to confront sub-zero temperatures and risk an outrageous bill or pay for other essentials from food to medication,” said President Jackson. “Although this proposal is a concept draft, I firmly believe we can work together to come up with some short-term relief to help Maine people get by while we work to rein in costs in the long run. Solving this issue won’t be easy, but together we deliver meaningful relief.”
The bill — LD 2010, An Act to Help Maine Residents with High Electricity Costs — would establish a tax rebate program for certain electricity ratepayers. The current version proposal would provide a $1,000 tax rebate for residential ratepayers and a $2,500 tax rebate for businesses with high-energy burdens. This bill is part of a suite of legislation put forward by Legislative Democrats that would provide direct rate relief, cut bureaucratic red tape for existing energy relief programs, and convene a stakeholder to weigh in on strategies to rein in prices and prevent future sky-high increases.
“The Maine Legislature must act now to address this growing issue however we can. While other bills, like my bill LD 1913, look for long-term fixes and systemic reforms, this bill provides Maine people and businesses with immediate, direct relief in the form of a tax rebate. This bill won’t solve everything, but it will provide some much-needed relief for the Maine families, seniors, and small business owners who are feeling the squeeze right now,” said Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic. “Energy policy is complicated – as is tax policy. What’s not complicated is the fact that Mainers are looking to us for help. I strongly believe the measures in this bill will provide real relief to those who need it the most.”
At the start of the year, many Maine electricity consumers experienced a sharp increase in their supply rate due to the high price of natural gas. The Public Advocate and the Mills Administrative have taken action to provide some relief to low-income Mainers. President Jackson introduced this tax credit to build on this effort while also providing relief to small business owners and middle-income Mainers.
“Despite our attempts to be conservative and implement energy-efficient resources, rising electricity costs have created unforeseen exorbitant monthly bills. For this business personally, the monthly statement has more than doubled, an astronomical increase for an already four-digit invoice. In my most recent statement, the amount due increased over $5,000.00,” said Jerry Violette of Island Falls in written testimony. “Quite honestly, I’m not sure how we will move forward. Small businesses cannot simply be expected to absorb such an increase, yet it not fair to pass this on solely to our consumers in a time when inflation is already outpacing increases in household income.”
LD 2010 will be the subject of additional work sessions in the Legislature’s Taxation Committee.