The State Legislature’s payments for travel and lodging to Maine Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) surged drastically after he and his longtime girlfriend purchased a home in Augusta — 283 miles closer to the State House.
The State Legislature paid Senate President Jackson reimbursements and allowances in 2019 worth just $17,128.11.
In 2020, after he purchased a home in Augusta using a Federal House Authority (FHA)-backed mortgage, those payments nearly doubled to $33,876.78.
In 2021, when Jackson was obligated by the FHA loan to make Augusta his principal residence, the top Democrat again received a far higher level of reimbursement than in 2019 — $31,500.17.
In 2022, he received the highest level of payments from the legislature ever received by a Maine lawmaker, $40,554.22.
Those numbers come from public records recently supplied to the Maine Wire by the State Legislature in response to a Freedom of Access Act request.
Those numbers are far higher than the figures originally reported by the Maine Wire, which were based on spending records from the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.
Most of those payments are allowances, rather than reimbursements. With allowances, lawmakers are not required to submit receipts or prove that they actually traveled the miles for which they’re paid.
The taxpayer-funded payments are based on a calculation of how far the elected official lives from the State House.
In Jackson’s case, that’s a 285 mile one-way trip — if he’s living in Allagash.
However, if he’s living at one of his two recent Augusta addresses, it’s just one or two miles.
Because the money is intended to offset expenses related to the performance of official duties, lawmakers are not required to pay taxes on those payments — even if they never actually traveled.
In theory, Jackson could even have used those tax-free payments to cover the cost of his mortgage payments on the North Belfast Ave home.
The drastic increase in payments to Jackson from 2019 to 2023 raises the question: what changed?
In 2019, Jackson was still Senate President — so why did the Legislature’s payments to him nearly double the following when there was no change in his official duties?
Another unexplained wrinkle: Why did payments to Jackson surge during a period in which the entire state was locked down as part of Gov. Janet Mills’ COVID-19 response?
According to the State House reference librarian, the statute governing payments to lawmakers did not change from 2016 to 2023, so there’s no new bill or law that would have increased his payments.
The record payments Jackson has received from the State Legislature have come under scrutiny since the Maine Wire reported that Jackson purchased a house in Augusta using an FHA loan in Sept. 2019.
The terms of that FHA loan required Jackson to make the Augusta house his primary residence for at least a year.
Jackson has subsequently said he never honored the terms of that agreement, which he confessed to not having read before he signed it.
Supplying false information to a lender about your intention to occupy a property in order to obtain a loan is form of mortgage application fraud the FBI calls occupancy fraud.
Despite claiming that Allagash has remained his primary residence throughout the past four years, Jackson has acknowledged to other news outlets that he spends the majority of his time in Augusta.
Jackson sold the Augusta home in Dec. 2021, but he has recently admitted to the Bangor Daily News, in response to photos published by the Maine Wire and questions submitted to his spokesperson, that he and his longtime girlfriend currently rent an apartment in Augusta.
The discrepancy between Jackson’s admission that he spends the majority of his time in Augusta, his ownership of a house in Augusta, and his unusually high payments for official travel prompted Rep. John Andrews (R-Paris) to file a complaint against Jackson with the Maine Ethics Commission and the Maine Attorney General.
Both offices have said they are reviewing the information Andrews submitted.
The Ethics Commission is slated to meet on Oct. 25, at which time the five-member panel will hear evidence related to the complaint.
Mortgage application fraud, as a federal crime, would fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Attorney of Maine.
Here’s the list of reimbursements and allowances paid to Jackson from 2019 to August.