Legislators say they didn't know about Brunswick TIF bill

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BRUNSWICK — Area legislators said they had nothing to do with a piece of proposed legislation that recently angered town leaders.

“I had no knowledge of legislation … and am very disappointed the governor’s office did not inform us, as it would harm Brunswick dramatically,” state Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunswick, said.

The legislation, which was introduced to the State Appropriations Committee on March 30, would have established a revenue split between Brunswick and the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority. Had the bill passed, 80 percent of the money from a Tax Increment Finance district would have gone to MRRA for the purpose of redeveloping the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Town leaders cried foul, claiming that the bill was an attempt to run roughshod over negotiations between MRRA and the town.

State officials said that the bill was an effort to ensure that the former Navy base, now known as Brunswick Landing, and a handful of other former military sites around the state receive the funding necessary for a robust redevelopment process.

George Gervais, who introduced the legislation in his role as commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said he produced the bill after consulting with the LePage administration and the office of the attorney general.

Legislators said they weren’t informed about the bill until after it was defeated.

“I had no prior knowledge of that provision in the change package, nor was I asked for any input into it,” Rep. Charles Priest, D-Brunswick, said last week.

Cornell du Houx blasted the bill in a written statement.

“Brunswick and the MRRA are currently in negotiations, and for the state to step in and dictate the terms of the negotiations is terrible policy that harms the town of Brunswick when we should all be working together to strengthen our community,” he said.

The bill was defeated at the committee level because members wanted the public to have more input into the process, a reason that Gervais said he supports.

Gervais maintained that he was not trying to push the bill through without a discussion of its merits.

“I didn’t even know it was going to be discussed that day myself,” he said, “until someone asked me if I was going to be there. … I rushed over and got there late.”

State Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, said he doesn’t have much to say about administration-generated legislation that hasn’t come before him personally. Typically, he said, he speaks to “only the parts that I vote on.”

Rep. Peter Kent, D-Woolwich, did not return several phone and email messages.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or matthh@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hh_matt.

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