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Governor Mills Signs State’s Two-Year Budget Into Law

by Sarah Skillin Woodard
Joined by Democratic and Republican lawmakers, Governor Janet Mills today signed into law the state’s Fiscal Year 2020-2021 biennial budget. The budget, which the Legislature enacted last Friday with the bipartisan support of two-thirds of its members, expands health care, improves Maine’s education system, provides property tax relief, and invests in the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

“By expanding access to health care, improving our education system, delivering property tax relief, and putting money into the Rainy Day Fund, this bipartisan budget invests in Maine’s future and delivers what Maine people want,” said Governor Mills. “I applaud Democrats and Republicans for working together to build consensus on these critical issues, and although no one got everything they wanted – as is the case in any good compromise – together we have achieved important progress on behalf of the people of Maine.”

“The budget signed by the Governor today is one that all Mainers can be proud of. It increases access to health care, better funds our public schools, and brings desperately needed property tax relief to Mainers,” said Speaker Sara Gideon. “We’re finally in a position as a State to look forward, to invest in our future, and follow through on the commitments we’ve made to Mainers. At the same time, this budget allows state government to meet its obligations while continuing to live within our means. I couldn’t be more grateful to the Governor and to the Legislators and staff who put so much work into creating this bipartisan agreement.”

“The Maine Legislature passed a bipartisan budget that directly responds to the greatest needs of Maine people, small businesses and communities,” said Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “Both Sen. Breen and Rep. Gattine entered the budget process committed to reaching a fair, bipartisan compromise on a budget. And the results speak for themselves. This budget answers Maine taxpayers’ call for property tax relief without leaving towns in the lurch. It invests in workforce development and education to both fill gaps in our workforce and ensures Maine children have the skills necessary for good-paying jobs. It also sets aside savings by adding to the Rainy Day Fund. This is what good governance looks like – elected officials working together to keep our promises to Maine people.”

FY 2020-2021 Biennial Budget Highlights:

Total spending: $7.98 billion from the General Fund over the next two years. The proposal also adds $19.8 million to the Budget Stabilization Fund.

Health Care: Making health care more affordable and more accessible

  • The budget fulfills promises to Maine people by sustainably funding MaineCare expansion. The budget allocates $125 million to be matched with nearly $700 million in federal funds for MaineCare Expansion.
  • The budget allocates $5 million to support domestic violence and sexual assault services.
  • The budget restores the Maine Low-Cost Drugs for the Elderly and Disabled program to cover an additional 1800 Maine seniors.
  • The budget adds 62 new Child and Family Services staff to better protect Maine children from abuse and neglect and provide relief to caseworkers with unmanageable caseloads.
  • The budget supports efforts to combat the opioid crisis by funding prevention efforts and eliminating red tape that prevents people from getting help. This includes $5.5 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine (FHM) to support prevention efforts, increases to the weekly rate for medication-assisted treatment and elimination of the 24-month limit for medication-assisted treatment.
  • The budget also allocates an additional $10 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine for smoking prevention and cessation.

K-12 Public Education: Increasing education funding, increasing the minimum teacher salary, and fixing crumbling schools

  • The budget raises state share of education funding to nearly 51 percent, which includes $115 million in new state support for local education.
  • The budget paves the way for a $40,000 minimum teacher salary and initially reimburses towns at 100 percent to offset the cost on local budgets.
  • The budget allocates $18 million in the School Revolving Loan Fund, which provides critical funding to repair crumbling school infrastructure.
  • The budget funds initiatives to feed more hungry school children. The program eliminates the reduced-price lunch category and includes those school children in the free-lunch category.

Workforce Training and Higher-Education: Investing in Maine workers, young adults and children

  • The budget includes $900,000 for adult education, $3 million for adult degree completion and $2 million for early college.
  • The budget provides for a nearly 3.3 percent increase for higher education and training programs – the Maine Community College System, the University of Maine System and Maine Maritime Academy – to help keep tuition fees down.
  • The budget continues ongoing workforce training funding for the Maine Community College System to help fill critical gaps in the workforce.
  • The budget allocates an additional $3 million for the Maine State Grant program.

Property Tax Relief: Delivering for Maine seniors, families, and small businesses

  • The budget allocates an additional $75 million in property tax relief for hardworking Mainers, seniors, families, and small businesses
  • The budget increases the Homestead Exemption by $5,000 so Maine residents can exempt $25,000 from their property taxes.
  • The budget expands eligibility for the Property Tax Fairness Credit to include an additional 13,000 more Mainers can get property tax relief.
  • The budget increases revenue sharing from 2.5 percent to 3 percent next year, and almost 4 percent in the following year.

Looking to the Future: Infrastructure, energy, climate, and planning

  • Broadband: The budget allocates $4 million to fund Department of Economic Development initiatives including broadband and rural development grants.
  • Renewable energy: The budget supports a ten-year plan to triple in-state renewable energy generation sufficient to fully offset energy use in all sectors: electricity, heating, and transportation.
  • Climate Council: The budget funds a comprehensive planning group charged with establishing policy initiatives and benchmarks to meet 30-year goals for climate emissions reductions.
  • Office of Policy Innovation and the Future: Provides $1.3 million in funding for revitalized state planning efforts across state government.
  • The budget also makes a significant investment in capital in the Marine Resources Department.

From the website of the Office of the Governor of Maine

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