U.S. Sen. Susan Collins speaks at Moody's Collision Center in Gorham on July 15, 2020. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I tried so hard to keep this brewery positive, and we haven’t had any backlash because we don’t do anything that’s negative,” said Brad Nadeau, the owner of Stars and Stripes Brewing in Freeport, which canceled a campaign event for President Donald Trump after saying it was misled. “But when it comes to politics, people are so far on either side.”

What we’re watching today

Maine’s Republican senator opposes a payroll tax cut backed by the president as messy intraparty coronavirus relief talks continue. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is one of the Republicans who has thrown cold water on Trump’s demand for a payroll tax cut, telling reporters on Tuesday that it would be “extremely expensive,” according to an NBC News story chronicling the divides among Republicans over the scope of spending and more.

“It would only benefit individuals who are working,” Collins said. “It also would displace other spending that I think is far more important.”

While Collins is in the political fight of her life in 2020 in a race with House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, it’s notable that more conservative Republicans have also been cool to the tax cut. Senate Republicans need to sort out their divide before taking their package to Democrats in both chambers.

Congress needs to pass an aid package by next week’s end or one important relief program will expire. That is the $600 weekly unemployment bonus, which Republicans see as a disincentive to getting people back to work and Democrats generally want to continue. Collins has been among those who want to see some extended benefit, but not the entire $600.

Maine workers were making more as a share of past wages with the bonus than those in any other state, according to a New York Times analysis. An expiration would hit hard in Maine, where a hospitality-driven economy was highly vulnerable to the virus-induced recession. 

Many could struggle to make housing payments and pull back on consumer spending. A new report from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that 14 percent of Mainers are behind on rent payments.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Trump campaign moves Maine event after Freeport brewery cancels, saying it was misled,” Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News: “Spokespeople for the Trump campaign in Maine did not respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment on Tuesday, but an amended release sent on Tuesday afternoon said the 5:15 p.m. event was moved to Jimmy The Greek’s, a restaurant in Old Orchard Beach.”

Trump says he will campaign in Maine’s 2nd District this year. Former state Rep. Dale Crafts, the Republican nominee in the 2nd District, told the Sun Journal that Trump called him recently to tell him he would come to the district to campaign with Crafts later this year. It figures, since Trump said in Maine last month that he planned to win the whole state in 2020 after winning the 2nd District in 2016. That looks like an uphill task as he trails former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in national polls.

— “Basic supply shortages still hold back Maine coronavirus testing, even as capacity growsCharles Eichacker, BDN: “We are hopeful that in the next week or two, we will be able to open up more expansive collection of specimens to be able to send them to the state,” said Northern Light Health’s COVID-19 incident commander, James Jarvis. “We are still always at the beck and call of the supply chain. It is still difficult for us to get confirmed sourcing.”

— “Tribes want to keep sovereignty bid on Mainers’ minds as it remains stuck in LegislatureCaitlin Andrews, BDN: “The idea behind the Wabanaki Alliance is to keep the tribes’ issues on Mainers’ minds, with the hope that the bill will not be left for 2021. It plans to do mostly online outreach efforts on the history of the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act and its effects on the tribes.”

Legislative panel to vote Friday on utility takeover bill

The proposal is one of the biggest bills stuck in limbo as the Legislature remains adjourned. The bill from Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, to create a public power authority that would buy out Maine’s two dominant electric utilities, is set for a vote on the energy committee that Berry co-chairs on Friday. It was the subject of a contested study earlier this year that said rates could rise initially but go down over time under the bill.

It is bitterly opposed by the utilities as Central Maine Power fights a referendum against its $1 billion hydropower corridor proposal. But with no agreement between Republicans and Democrats on whether to bring the Legislature back, it’s unclear what the path forward is in 2020 for this measure and scores of others.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd and Caitlin Andrews. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...