Janet Mills, Maine’s first female governor began her second four-year term after taking the oath of office Wednesday only hours after signing an emergency $473 million heating and energy relief bill into law.
Mills, 74, defeated former two-term Republican Gov. Paul LePage, a Lewiston native who left office because of term limits, by almost 13 percentage points. Mills received the most votes for a governor in state history and is the first Maine governor since 1970 to be elected with a majority of votes for both terms in office.
In 2019, Mills used her inaugural address to formally announce new policy plans, such as the expansion of Medicaid in Maine, the creation of a state director of opioid response to coordinate the state’s efforts to fight the addiction crisis, and the creation of a state office of innovation and the future.
Mills used her second inaugural address to tout her first-term successes instead, including the steate’s economic recovery from the pandemic, fully funding the state’s share of public education, lowering the rate of residents lacking health insurance, and boosting the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
Her speech at the Augusta Civic Center came hours after a bipartisan victory. Just before, she signed a $473 million heating aid package including $450 relief checks to 880,000 Mainers.
Mills’ plan for the next four years will be clear in the coming days when she submits her two-year budget proposal to the Legislature. The debate over the heating aid bill could preface some of the fights over that proposal, which was funded by an estimated $280 million state budget surplus through June and transfers from other programs including Medicaid.
That transferred money is being offset by increased federal funding, but some Republicans and advocates for people with intellectual disabilities still criticized it given long-standing waitlists for services. Mills and Democrats retorted that those problems should be addressed in the budget.
The governor was sworn in by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. She was sworn in wearing a suffragette-white suit and custom-made L.L. Bean boots with the state’s seal sewn on them.
The inauguration was open to the public. An invite-only inaugural celebration will take place Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center. Mills has raised more than $250,000 to cover inaugural costs, according to a report released by her Transition and Inaugural Committee on Tuesday.
Mills spent about $200,000 on her 2019 inauguration, which was also held at the Civic Center, but it took her campaign almost a year to settle up with the city-owned venue because the amount owed was $60,000 more than originally quoted.
The unexpected overage required the Mills campaign to conduct additional, post-deadline fundraising 10 months past the legal deadline to do so, which resulted in a $2,000 fine from the ethics commission under a 2015 law on inaugural finances.