Articles By Peter Mills
Bibliography of Maine Financial Information
State government is a conglomerate of many big businesses. As a whole, it is larger by far than any private enterprise in Maine. Yet, like many other tax supported systems, it lacks the discipline of profit and loss. Although public financial reports come in many forms, they do not yield the customary tools of investment analysis, such as earnings per share, P/E ratios, operating margins, shareholder equity, and the like. Without shareholders, net earnings or losses, there is also little reason to track the value of assets.
While the state does measure rather carefully, and often redundantly, the flow of its revenues and expenditures, there is little accounting for value, performance, effectiveness or results. The following are the chief documents that I have found helpful.
Compendium of State Fiscal Information from the Office of Fiscal and Program Review (OFPR) (287-1635) summarizes the recent history of all major sources of operating revenue and expenditures plus debt obligations and per capita comparisons with other states.
The first volume of the Governor's biennial Budget document submitted in January of each odd year contains pie graphs and analytical material on budget issues. Tax expenditures, i.e., forgone revenue created by exemptions to sales and income taxes, are required by law to be listed in each biennial budget.
To support the sale of general obligation bonds each June, the State Treasurer (287-2771) publishes an "Official Statement" providing in narrative, tabular and graphic form an anaylisis of the state's fiscal condition as a guide to investors and bond rating agencies.
Each of the three rating agencies, Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investor Service and FitchRatings, publishes a narrative credit analysis each spring.
The Maine Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, published by the Controller (626-8420), is the state's financial statement for the preceding fiscal year.
The Maine State Government Annual Report is produced each fiscal year by the Bureau of the Budget in the Department of Administrative Services. It summarizes the finances of every division and bureau of state government.
Maine's Single Audit Report and its associated Management Letter is published annually by the State Auditor (624-6250) as a critique of accounting for public funds in each department.
The Maine State Revenue Forecasting Committee on December 1st and March 1st of each year makes revenue projections that are binding on legislative budget writers. Projections are based on analyses of the Consensus Economic Forecasting Commssion that meets a month earlier. The twice annual forecast report is available from the State Planning Office (287-3261) and from OFPR.
Summary of Major State Funding Disbursed to Municipalities and Counties from OFPR (287-1635) summarizes the recent history of all state support flowing to Maine's municipalities.
Municipal Valuation Return Statistical Summary, published by the Property Tax Division of Maine Revenue Services (287-2011), summarizes taxes collected by each town and aggregates them by county.
Commissioner's Recommended Funding Level, published each December 15 by the Department of Education (624-6790), provides parameters for the K-12 school funding formula which accounts for 30% of the General Fund budget.
Medicaid in Maine, an annual report from the Bureau of Medical Services of DHS (287-2674), the state's largest health insurer, outlines recent trends in Medicaid spending broken into components. The state's share of Medicaid accounts for 1/6 of the General Fund budget and is leveraged with a two-to-one match from the federal government.
Maine State Retirement System Annual Report describes all state, teacher and local pension systems administered by MSRS (287-3461) including investment returns on $8 billion of assets. Annual payments to state employee and teacher pensions cost about 10% of the General Fund. The state's unfunded liability is $3 billion, more than an entire year of revenue for the General Fund.
Maine Tax Incidence Studies printed in December of each even numbered year by the Research Division of Maine Revenue Services (287-6965) explains where state and local tax revenues come from and who pays them. It includes comparative data from other states. Economist Mike Allen is the Bureau's chief analyst.
A Golden Opportunity II published by the Maine State Planning Office (287-3261) in December 1999 outlined how Maine can enhance the retirement industry. Of note is Appendix C, a report entitled "Taxes and Retirement in the State of Maine" prepared for the Libra Foundation by the Kennedy School. An insightful profile of Maine's state and local tax structure, it addresses how Maine's wealthy retirees interface with high taxes and cold winters.
The Maine Policy Review (581-1553) published two or three times a year by the Margaret Chase Smith Center for Public Policy at UMO analyzes many issues of interest to policymakers. Past articles are at www.umaine.edu/mcsc/mpr.htm.
Maine Center for Economic Policy (622-7381) (website at MECEP.org) and the Maine Municipal Association (623-8428) are constantly publishing fresh and authoritative analytical work. Of recent note are "Maine Revenue Primers" published by MECEP in April of 2003 and May of 2006, and "Tax Reform and the Search for a Free Lunch" given by USM economist Charles Colgan for a MECEP seminar on January 23, 2004.
The Condition of K-12 Public Education in Maine published each year by the Maine Education Policy Research Institute (780-5044) assembles information on public education and school funding as well as census and income data to put education into perspective.
Changing Maine 1960-2010 is an encyclopedic paperback compendium of 22 policy articles about Maine, edited by Dick Barringer of the Muskie School and published by Tilbury House in 2004. Price $20.
Dollars and Sense by Josephine LaPlante and Robert Devlin published by the Muskie Institute in 1993, is an encyclopedic analysis of how Maine raised and spent revenue during the decade of the 1980's and what went wrong in 1991. The authors' recommendations are still relevant and largely unfulfilled.
Senate and House Register, published in February of odd numbered years, contains photos and personal data on legislators with committee assignments, phone numbers, the State Constitution, Joint Rules and Rules for the House and Senate.
A Citizen's Guide to the Maine Legislature, published in March of odd numbered years by Maine People's Resource Center (761-1881), contains a useful personal and political profile on every Maine legislator.