UPDATE: Saco Mayor Mark D. Johnston on Monday confirmed for The Maine Wire that the bacon-wrapped scallop banquet originally scheduled for Feb. 28 at the University of New England has been cancelled. Johnston said the decision was made for a number of reasons — none of which included the publication of this story. He said Maine’s mayors and lawmakers will likely gather at some point in the future to discuss Gov. LePage’s budget. Johnston declined to comment on that meeting’s menu.
State legislators will join the Maine Mayors Coalition Feb. 28 at the University of New England (UNE) in Biddeford to dine on bacon-wrapped scallops and beef tenderloin—courtesy of Biddeford and Saco taxpayers—as they discuss ways to expand Maine’s sales tax.
According to documents obtained by The Maine Wire, the mayors of Saco and Biddeford have agreed to pay nearly $2,000 to UNE for catering services including a bar tender, peppered beef tenderloin, chicken satay and scallops wrapped in bacon.
The event will feature guest speakers Dr. Charles Colgan, a professor at the Muskie Institute, and John F. Piotti, executive director of Maine Farmland Trust and former Democratic representative of Unity.
Saco Mayor Mark D. Johnston said members of the Maine Mayors Coalition and several state legislators have been invited to the event which will focus on ways to raise revenue without cutting revenue-sharing including expanding the State’s sales tax and eliminating exemptions.
Given that it was Piotti who sponsored a 2009 bill to expand the sales tax, his presence at the meeting as a guest speaker signals that the group will be retreading an idea voters already rejected by a 60-40 margin via a 2010 people’s veto.
Johnston said the cost of the banquet will be covered by the mayors’ discretionary spending accounts.
Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant could not be reached for comment.
Lori Souliere, property taxpayer and co-owner of Alberts Garage in Biddeford, was shocked at her mayor’s decision to use taxpayer money to pay for the event.
“I had no idea this was going on,” said Souliere. “I’m speechless.”
“It’s absurd,” said Andrew Clark, owner of Saco-based RestEZ Contractors.
“It’s completely absurd to be spending taxpayer money on something like this while complaining about budget cuts,” said Clark.
By S.E. Robinson