January 21, 2020

BIW project gets political backing

BATH — Dubbing themselves “Team Maine,” leaders in government, business and organized labor rallied Monday behind a plan to extend up to $113 million in state tax rebates to Bath Iron Works so it can better compete against rival shipyards for Navy contracts.

The plan, to be submitted to the Legislature on Tuesday, includes rebates of $53 million in equipment taxes and $60 million in payroll taxes. The latter would be granted at a rate of $3 million per year for a maximum of 20 years, or until 30 ships are built at the new facility.

Gov. Angus King, all four members of Maine’s congressional delegation and an array of state and local officials turned out in a show of support for the $307 million expansion and modernization plan advanced by the state’s largest private employer.

Allan Cameron, president of the General Dynamics subsidiary, said the project is essential if BIW is to remain competitive with Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, Miss.

“We’re locked in a ferocious battle for survival with an able competitor that is fully supported by the state of Mississippi,” Cameron said. “The next critical step is a commitment of support from the state.”

Earlier this month, the Bath City Council unanimously approved a municipal tax break, valued at an estimated $81 million over 25 years, that the yard said was essential for the project.

In announcing the tax breaks he will seek from the state, Cameron was flanked by King, U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, U.S. Reps. Tom Allen and John Baldacci, Dana Connors, president of the Maine Chamber of Commerce and Business Alliance, Charles O’Leary, president of the Maine AFL-CIO and other local and state officials.

They called themselves “Team Maine.”

King hailed the plan as an “investment, not corporate welfare.” As the state’s largest employer, with a current work force of 7,300, BIW must be helped, he said.

As a safeguard, the payroll tax rebate would be ended if BIW paid fewer than $6 million to the state in taxes or the number of employees at the yard fell below 3,500.

“Sometimes you have to step up and become partners,” King said. “If there’s going to be a Team Mississippi, then, by God, there’s going to be a Team Maine.”

BIW plans to expand into the Kennebec River, creating a platform to build ships less expensively in a level and dry atmosphere. Included in the legislative package is a bill allowing the company to either own or lease a portion of the Kennebec next to the yard.

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