Maine Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note speaks at a news conference in Augusta on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 alongside (from left to right) Madawaska Town Manager Gary Picard, Paul Kosiell, president of CPM Constructors, Inc. in Freeport and Dana Connors, the CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. Credit: Michael Shepherd / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. Advocates for and against a consumer-owned utility will attend a meeting of the Legislature’s energy committee at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Listen here.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “If you’re going to get up in the morning and make breakfast for two people, you might as well make it for 16 people,” said Matt Losquadro, the co-owner of the Saltair Inn in Bar Harbor, about the unusually busy season the Acadia region saw this winter. The season seems to portend an even busier summer. Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The need for infrastructure spending is recognized in a state that has long struggled to pay for transportation. President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion plan takes a wider view of the term “infrastructure” than we are used to in politics, setting aside $621 million for roads, bridges, transit and other transportation infrastructure including electric vehicle charging stations. Of note in Maine is $100 billion for broadband expansion and $45 billion more aimed at finding and replacing old lead water pipes, while critics have noted other elements like $400 billion for Medicaid support for caregivers. 

The Democratic president’s administration is doing some work to lobby for the plan based on how it could benefit each state. It released a fact sheet for each of the 50 states, though it is not clear how much will go to each state. Maine’s highlights poor to middling grades for roads and bridges. The state has long had to borrow annually to fund its system and a commission that aimed to solve the gap broke down last year.

National business groups are lobbying at the local level, too. Ed Mortimer, the vice president of transportation and infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spoke with Maine State Chamber of Commerce CEO Dana Connors on Monday about the group’s concerns about the scope of the plan and its funding mechanism, though Connors focused more on need.

“I do believe, as has been suggested, that a compromise will be reached, it will pass and it will be signed into law because it’s needed,” he said.

How the plan is funded might determine whether it gets bipartisan support in Washington, and among Maine’s delegation. Republicans are mostly balking at the idea of another big spending package after several major coronavirus relief bills in the past year. Biden proposed paying for the plan in part by hiking the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent. (It was at 35 percent until the 2017 Republican tax bill.) 

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the lawmakers that Biden would likely need to make the bill bipartisan, told Newscenter Maine earlier this month that she was worried such an increase would cause companies to leave the country. Both Collins and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, have expressed hope that Congress would negotiate a bipartisan deal, according to NECN

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has advocated for increasing the fuel tax in the short-term and transitioning to a vehicle mileage tax later on. But both proposals are likely to be politically difficult, as they have been in Maine. The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine looks to allay concerns around COVID-19 vaccines after Johnson & Johnson pause,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Gov. Janet Mills said Tuesday the state is working on a public relations campaign with community leaders to drive home the importance of getting vaccinated, noting all three vaccines are virtually 100 percent effective in preventing severe cases of the virus.”

The pause caused providers across the state to cancel or switch vaccines to maintain appointments. Some, like Penobscot Community Health Center, were able to use some Moderna vaccines it received from the federal government to cover appointments, although a spokesperson was not sure if the supply would cover all appointments planned this week. Others, like the Old Orchard Beach fire department, had to reschedule to next week. A federal advisory committee is expected to meet today to discuss clinical data around the six women who developed severe, but rare, blood clots after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

— “A prosecutor ended his police career. He doesn’t understand why she won’t hear his side,” Josh Keefe, BDN: “Some experts expect district attorneys to investigate the validity of the claims against officers when deciding whether to Giglio impair them, a move that can end their careers. But under Maine law and court precedent, a Giglio determination is entirely up to the local prosecutor, with no review or appeals process for officers.”

— “Energy companies pour more than $7M into CMP corridor fight in first 3 months of 2021,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “The new flush of money follows more than $19 million in political spending around the corridor in 2020, when a ballot question aiming to rescind its permit was declared unconstitutional. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ Office announced in February that opponents of the 145-mile transmission line secured enough signatures for another ballot question this year.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper, Caitlin Andrews and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

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...