Welcome to the Committee on Taxation’s work session on six bills. In this session, we will discuss LD 80, which aims to provide critical communications for family farms, businesses, and residences in Maine through strategic public investment in high-speed internet and broadband infrastructure. This bill proposes transferring 33% of the sales tax collected from marketplace facilitators to the Connect Maine Authority for the deployment of internet infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. Let’s dive into the details.
To begin, let’s introduce the committee members present. Representative Bruce Bickford represents House District 63 in Auburn, followed by Representative Mickey Carmichael, who represents 22 communities in Hancock, Washington, and Baltimore counties. Representative Lori Gramlich represents House District 13, which includes the lovely seaside community of Old Orchard Beach. Representative Jeff Hanley represents District 87, which encompasses the town of Pittston. Joel Steckes serves the people of District 105, covering the towns of Canaan, Palmyra, St. Albans, Parliament, and Cambridge. Representative Anne Matlock represents House District 92, which includes several communities such as Cushing, Thomaston, and South Thomaston. Finally, Representative Joe Perry represents part of Orono and Bangor in the Maine House. Senator Matt Pouliot, representing Senate District 15 towns, and Senator Ben Chipman, serving as Senate chair, are also present in the meeting.
LD 80: Critical Communications through High-Speed Internet Investment
LD 80, sponsored by Representative McCray, seeks to provide critical communications to family farms, businesses, and residences in Maine through strategic public investment in high-speed internet and broadband infrastructure. The bill proposes transferring 33% of the sales tax collected from marketplace facilitators to the Connect Maine Authority on a monthly basis. This funding would be used to deploy internet infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas of the state.
Proposed Amendment and Objectives
Representative McCray emphasizes his commitment to pushing for broadband connectivity, especially in rural parts of Maine. While federal funds provide significant financial support, they are only a short-term solution. LD 80 aims to address this by dedicating a portion of sales tax funds generated from online sales to improve internet connectivity.
Through an amendment, Representative McCray proposes changing the bill’s title to “Investment in Broadband Internet,” as it better captures its objectives concisely. The amendment also includes a 10-year sunset provision, ensuring the continued availability of funds even after initial federal assistance. By utilizing these funds, the state can make meaningful progress in connecting rural areas and boosting economic opportunities.
Working Group for Effective Funding Allocation
In response to ongoing discussions regarding available federal funds, broadband expansion initiatives, and the future need for additional funding, there is a suggestion to establish a working group. This group would assess the federal and state funding landscape, determine the remaining unserved population, and identify any funding gaps that LD 80 could fill.
Representative McCray welcomes the idea of a working group and suggests that it be composed of experts, including committee members. With their valuable insights, the group can ensure a comprehensive approach to address the long-standing issue of internet connectivity in Maine. However, Representative McCray acknowledges that decisions made today may be modified by future policymakers, highlighting the ever-evolving nature of legislation.
The work session on LD 80 highlights the importance of bridging the digital divide in Maine. By allocating a portion of sales tax funds to broadband infrastructure, the state can accelerate connectivity in unserved and underserved areas. Representative McCray’s amendment, along with the proposed working group, ensures that the funds have a long-term impact beyond the initial influx of federal support. It is crucial to seize this opportunity and provide critical communications to all residents, farms, and businesses in Maine through high-speed internet and broadband investment.
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