The state’s biennial budget headed to the full Legislature for a vote on Wednesday after members of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee reached a unanimous, bipartisan agreement on the $8.5 billion package on Sunday.
To achieve a bipartisan budget, appropriations committee Democrats agreed to the Republican position of returning $150 million of taxpayer money back to Mainers who worked during the pandemic. Although it is less than the $300 million initially proposed by Republicans, this breakthrough generated unanimous support from Republican Appropriations Committee members. If approved by two-thirds of the full legislature, the budget would take effect immediately upon passage. Since April, Republicans have insisted that the same $10,200 state income exemption given to unemployed Mainers be extended to those who worked during the pandemic.
The budget’s highlights include restoring municipal revenue sharing; expanding the property tax fairness credit to 83,000 Maine residents; strengthening the homestead exemption program; and funding 55 percent of K-12 public educations costs. It also adds $45 million to the School Revolving Renovation Fund so that schools can make critical health and safety upgrades, they said, and provides financial support for senior living facilities and direct care workers.
In addition, the budget will make school breakfast and national school lunch programs available to all Maine students at no cost. It also will expand access to preventative dental care to an estimated 217,000 Mainers and fund a rate increase to ensure that Mainers with intellectual disabilities can access adequate services, the Democratic leaders said.
Following Sunday’s vote by the appropriations committee, Gov. Janet Mills issued a statement praising the agreement.
The budget deal adds a minimum of $60 million to the state’s rainy day fund, bringing the total to $328.2 million.
The budget also includes $40 million for the Land for Maine’s Future program and as well as funds for the cleanup of PFAS contamination.