BANGOR, Maine — Officials in Bangor are keeping an eye on possible legislation that could affect the city during the new legislative session in Augusta.
Chief among the Bangor City Council’s priorities is making sure the Legislature does not make any substantive changes to how much revenue from Hollywood Slots goes into city coffers.
The city now receives 1 percent of the 39 percent state tax on net revenue, as well as 3 percent of net revenue directly from Hollywood Slots. The city plans to use that money to help fund a proposed $65 million arena and convention center complex.
The Legislature is expected to take a look at gambling revenues in light of voters’ approval last November of a resort casino in Oxford County. Also on the agenda is whether Hollywood Slots will be approved to add table games, something that is part of the Oxford County proposal.
In addition to gambling discussions, Bangor officials are researching other expected issues as they prepare to meet later this month with members of the city’s legislative delegation.
Bangor health and community services director Shawn Yardley said as many as 20 pieces of proposed legislation seek to make changes to general assistance, an emergency entitlement program administered by municipalities.
Yardley said he recognizes that Gov. Paul LePage has made welfare reform one of his top priorities, but he also said some changes could have adverse effects on Bangor.
Already, he said, Bangor picks up the slack for the entire region when it comes to general assistance awards.
Another hot topic is LD 79, which seeks to reduce the automobile excise tax by 10 percent. Bangor officials said the excise tax helps offset the cost of maintaining roads and bridges. If LD 79 is successful, Bangor would lose an estimated $460,000 in revenue annually.
“I know we want to be business-friendly, but [LD 79] scares me to death,” Councilor Pat Blanchette said Thursday.
City Clerk Patti Dubois told councilors that, although no bill has been proposed, she expects legislators to take a hard look at early voting versus in-person absentee voting. She said early voting, which allows voters to feed ballots into the machine before Election Day, would save time and resources but it also may require changes to the state constitution.
Members of Bangor’s legislative delegation, including Sens. Nichi Farnham and Debra Plowman, and Reps. Adam Goode, Doug Damon, James Parker, Sara Stevens and Emily Cain, are scheduled to meet with city leaders on Jan. 31.