AUGUSTA — Last week, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, introduced legislation that would increase the municipal revenue sharing program to better support local law enforcement, fire departments and emergency medical services across the state. LD 1060, “An Act to Support Municipal Public Safety by Increasing State Municipal Revenue Sharing to 7 Percent” received a public hearing before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee Thursday, March 30.
The proposal would increase municipal revenue sharing from 5 percent to 7 percent, and require municipalities to use the additional funds for the employment, training and provision of emergency fire and medical services, as well as law enforcement.
“Public safety hinges on local law enforcement, fire departments and emergency medical service departments. However, the challenges plaguing public safety departments from updating buildings and equipment to hiring and retaining staff are mounting and have now reached crisis levels,” said President Jackson. “This bill would provide an ongoing funding stream to ensure that municipalities from Fort Kent to Kittery can meet the health and safety needs of Maine families and older residents. It would ensure our brave first responders get the resources they need to answer the call.”
The municipal revenue sharing program returns 5 percent of state revenue collected in each municipality to the local governments to help stabilize property taxes and cover essential services. Established in 1986, the program has not increased or kept pace with rising costs. The program was also slashed under the previous administration. Last year, marked the first fiscal year that Maine honored its statutory obligation at the full 5 percent for the first time since 2009.
“Increasing revenue sharing to our municipalities will better support law enforcement and first responders operating in rural communities all across the state,” said Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop. “I’m proud to cosponsor legislation that will ensure rural communities, like mine, have the resources to keep our neighbors healthy and safe.”
Last year, the Maine Legislature established a Blue Ribbon Commission to Study Emergency Medical Services in the State to examine and make recommendations on the structure, support, and delivery of emergency medical services in the State. The Commission found that “the primary issue facing EMS is a lack of funding,” noting that the state must make additional investments in public safety departments beyond adjustments to reimbursement rates.
LD 1060 will be the subject of additional work sessions in the coming weeks. The Maine Municipal Association testified in support of the proposal.