State budget crisis delays bill to help Idexx expand

Is IDEXX leaving?

WESTBROOK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Maine’s state budget crisis is over, but some work in Augusta remains undone.

When lawmakers finally settled the budget early Tuesday morning, more than 100 bills were still waiting for final action in what’s called the Special Appropriations Table. They have passed, but need funding before they can fully take effect.

One of those bills would help Idexx Laboratories of Westbrook to expand. Idexx creates and manufactures a variety of animal medicines. It’s considered by many a Maine success story.

Westbrook Mayor Michael Sanphy told NEWS CENTER that Idexx is "incredibly important" to the community and to the state. He said the company now employs more than 1,500 people in Westbrook, and thousands more worldwide.

According to a lobbyist for Idexx, the LePage administration proposed a bill to provide a tax incentive for corporate headquarters that locate or expand in Maine. Other corporations could take advantage of it, but lawmakers said it was designed to help Idexx grow in Maine.

"I think it’s a good signal for the state to send that we care deeply about growing homegrown businesses in Maine, helping them grow in Maine and stay in Maine," said Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, who represents part of Westbrook and serves on the Appropriations Committee.

According to the lobbying firm, the bill would require a corporation to invest at least $35 million before the tax benefits began. And the business would have to meet yearly job growth promises to pay the money back.

Idexx is not commenting on specifics of the bill, but Sen. Breen said it had gotten strong support from lawmakers. Now, however, the proposal is "in limbo" because of the recent state budget crisis. The bill has passed but now sits on the Special Appropriations Table waiting for the Appropriations Committee to decide on the funding.

Sen. Breen blamed the budget impasse and eventual shutdown for taking all the time and attention of lawmakers and delaying final decisions on the corporate tax bill by several weeks at least. As a result, she said businesses need to make decisions, but the legislature hasn't acted yet.

One of those businesses is Idexx, which has a board of directors meeting scheduled for July 11. A company public relations spokesperson would not say if the expansion would be on the board's agenda.

Westbrook's mayor said Idexx jobs are exactly the kind that Maine wants to encourage and grow, with promoting more growth of technology and research businesses.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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