The following came to me from a Land Trust newsletter.
I pass it on in light of todays discussion about what we can
each do to help... communicate.
If you have anyone that would be a good example send direct
as indicated below
Patricia A. Smith
[log in to unmask]
Forwarded : received from Great Works Regional Land Trust
In late April or May, the US Senate Finance Committee will be holding a public hearing to address the recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Taxation that would severely impact land conservation. Specifically the recommendations would:
1.. No Tax Deduction for Easements Associated with Personal Residences
2.. Easement Tax Deductions Limited to 33% of Appraised Value
3.. Deductions of Land Donations and Bargain Sales Limited to Basis - Not Market Value
In preparation for the public hearing, Senator Olympia Snowe, who sits on the Finance Committee, is seeking landowners from Maine that have donated conservation easements. She hopes to show the benefit of land conservation. She believes that Maine is a real leader on this issue and she wants to showcase the great work that is taking place in Maine. It would be great if we could recommend landowners with excellent stories to tell and who have donated significant resources for public benefit. Please forward any recommended names to Maine Coast Heritage Trust's Public Policy Coordinator, Jeff Romano at [log in to unmask] or call him at 729-7366.
Below is an update on both state and federal legislative activity that is relevant to land conservation.
Maine Land Trust Coordinator
Maine Coast Heritage Trust
One Main St. Suite 201
Topsham, ME 04086
[log in to unmask]
Federal Tax Update
In early March, MCHT representatives met with Senator Snowe, and other members of Maine's Congressional Delegation, to discuss the recent recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Taxation (see www.lta.org for more information). As a follow up to that meeting, Senator Snowe has asked MCHT to provide her with information on land conservation in Maine. The Senator hopes to showcase the benefits of land conservation and to illustrate the potential harm of the proposed recommendations if approved. In response, we are compiling the following information as it relates to MCHT activities:
1.. Conservation Donations Received in the last 5 Years
1.. Number of Donations
2.. Acreage Conserved
2.. Conservation Donations Currently Being Negotiated
1.. Number of Potential Donations
2.. Potential Acreage Conserved
To strengthen the case and provide a fuller picture, we would encourage local land trusts to forward similar information to MCHT. We will compile the data and forward it to Senator Snowe.
Land for Maine's Future
In late February, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) Committee and the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (ACF) jointly heard testimony on a number of LMF bond proposals, including:
Ø LD 800: Sponsored by Senator Mary Andrews (R-York), this bill calls for a $75 million bond in support of LMF to be spent over four years. LD 800 is the bill being supported by the Land Bond Coalition.
Ø LD 1035: Proposed by Governor Baldacci, this bill recommends a $50 million investment in LMF.
Following the public hearing, the ACF Committee spent a month discussing the proposed LMF bonds. In late March, they voted unanimously to recommend to the AFA Committee a $45 million LMF bond (three years at $15 million per year). While the Republicans on the committee voted unanimously in support of $45million, they explained that their support at that level was dependent on the state budget. Since the committee vote, the state budget has been approved and has been widely criticized by Republican legislators.
Ultimately the final decision on all bonds, including a LMF bond, will be made by the AFA Committee, with significant input from legislative leadership and the Governor. While the timing is still unclear, it is wise to keep in mind that bonds typically are addressed at the very end of the session, which this year is scheduled for mid-June.
Over the next few months, it is important for Land Bond supporters to continue to speak out in support of an LMF bond and to share with legislators the need for action on this item in 2005.
Working Lands Bonds
With a similar history of discussion as the LMF bonds, working lands bonds were addressed by the ACF Committee jointly with the Committee on Marine Resources. In late March, the two committees recommended to the AFA Committee a $20 million bond in support of working farms and waterfronts. The $20 million proposal includes $12 million for waterfront acquisition, as well as money in support of Farms for the Future, farmland acquisition, and irrigation.
Real Estate Transfer Tax Proposals
Ø LD 115: Sponsored by Representative Rector, this bill proposes to allow municipalities to implement a local real estate transfer tax on specific non-exempt land transactions in their communities. The revenue raised would then be made available for protecting open space within the same municipality. The Taxation Committee voted unanimously to kill this bill, but some on the committee are interested in exploring this subject matter in LD 1107 (see below).
Ø LD 1103: Sponsored by Representative Bowen, this bill proposes to dedicate 45% of existing revenue generated by the state's real estate transfer tax to the LMF program, roughly $11-12 million each year. The Taxation Committee voted unanimously to kill this bill.
Ø LD 1107: Sponsored by Representative Pingree, this bill is similar to LD 115 above; however, the real estate transfer tax could only be applied on properties in excess of $1,000,000. Also the bill would allow municipalities to use the money in support of open space acquisition and affordable housing. The Taxation Committee tabled this bill on March 31 and plans to discuss it in early April.
Ø LD 73: Sponsored by Representative Joy this bill originally called for the state to acquire lands in Maine currently owned by the federal government (with the exception of military-related parcels), i.e. White Mountain National Forest, Acadia National Park, national wildlife refuges, etc. The bill was amended in committee. The amended bill requires strong local support in a community before the federal government could study the creation of a new national park. LD 73 as amended was narrowly defeated in both the house and senate.
Ø LD 567: Sponsored by Senator Davis this bill requires legislative approval for the State to accept a gift of 100 acres or more of land. On March 30, the State and Local Government Committee voted 12-1 ought not to pass.
If you have any questions or concerns about these subjects or other public policy issues, please contact Jeff Romano, Public Policy Coordinator, at [log in to unmask] or 729-7366.