In her State of the Budget Address on Tuesday, Governor Janet Mills declared that Maine’s fiscal health is strong and touted her Administration’s budget proposal as tackling many of Maine’s most pressing issues, from the workforce shortage to the housing crunch.
The Governor indicated that her $10.3 billion budget proposal is balanced, does not raise taxes, and leaves the Rainy Day Fund untouched at a record high of more than $900 million.
Mills says the budget will advance initiatives to address Maine’s most serious challenges, including continuing her free community college initiative for another two years, building more housing, and strengthening Maine’s health care system through investments in behavioral health, services for older Mainers and people with disabilities.
The proposal also makes investment in infrastructure to unlock vast new sources of Federal funding to fix Maine’s multimodal transportation system.
To complement her budget, the Governor also announced a series of new initiatives to tackle the opioid crisis and improve child welfare, and she pledged to sign into law new legislation that would adopt “Housing First,” a highly-successful and cost-effective approach to addressing homelessness. The Governor also announced that she will propose creating four new District Court judgeships to help the courts relieve a backlog of cases.
New actions announced by the Governor include:
Addressing the Opioid Epidemic:
- Increasing Naloxone Availability by 25 Percent: “I am announcing tonight that we will increase the State’s purchase and distribution of naloxone by 25 percent – a strategy that has contributed to a 93 percent survival rate among those who experience an overdose. We start by saving lives, pure and simple.”
- Doubling OPTIONS Team: “With non-taxpayer funds committed by Attorney General Aaron Frey, we will double the number of trained individuals who join law enforcement on calls related to substance use and who can lead people to treatment and recovery services. Last December alone, these “OPTIONS liaisons” responded to dozens of calls with law enforcement officers and got nearly 100 people into treatment. OPTIONS” is working and by expanding it we will save more lives.”
- Building on expanded substance use treatment beds: “We increased access to treatment and recovery, adding 140 residential treatment beds and detox beds. And I have directed the Department of Health and Human Services to invest another $2 million to further increase the availability of those beds across Maine.”
Improving Child Welfare:
- Developing A Child Safety and Family Wellness Plan: “We will partner with the Maine Child Welfare Action Network to develop a new, comprehensive plan to keep children safe by keeping families strong – by ensuring kids have healthy food, safe housing, and child care, and by supporting parents with job training and education, and mental health and substance use services. If we keep families healthy, then we can keep children safe.”
- Supporting Caseworkers With Experts in Substance Use Disorder: I am directing the Department of Health and Human Services to embed a clinical expert in substance use disorder in every child welfare district in Maine to better recognize the influence of substance use, to navigate the risks to children, and to steer parents into treatment. We know this strategy works because we have done it before, providing experts in domestic violence to help caseworkers identify and confront abuse in the home and combat its profound effects on children in particular.”
- Creating A Recovery Coach Pilot Program for Parents: “I have directed the Department of Health and Human Services to engage recovery coaches with lived experience to assist parents struggling with substance use disorder. Remembering that “the opposite of addiction is not (simply) sobriety but connections,” these people can share their own experiences with parents and walk with them along the road to recovery, while making sure the children are protected.”
- Expanding Family Recovery Courts: “I want to expand the number of Family Recovery Courts in Maine. These specialty courts work with families whose children are at risk because their parents are struggling with substance use disorder. I will engage with the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, and others to expand these courts and promote them aggressively as an effective means to get parents into treatment, to closely monitor their progress, and, ultimately, to reunite them with their children only when it is appropriate to do so.”
Governor Mill’s said her budget proposal builds on her previous budget measure that achieves 55 percent of the cost of education, fully restores revenue sharing with municipalities, replenishes the Land for Maine’s Future Program, provides tax relief to working Maine families, and that delivered $850 direct relief payments to Maine people to help with the high costs of pandemic-induced inflation– one of the strongest relief proposals in the country.
Mills said it complements her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, approved by the Legislature, to invest nearly $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to improve the lives of Maine people and families, help businesses, create good-paying jobs, and build an economy poised for future prosperity. It also complements the Maine Connectivity Authority, which is expanding access to broadband to achieve Governor Mills’ goal of providing everyone in Maine with an internet connection who wants one by the end of 2024.
The Rainy Day Fund, has grown to more than $900 million. Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s credit rating agencies last year also reaffirmed Maine’s Aa2 bond rating and for rating Maine’s debt as stable, even while downgrading ratings of other states, citing Maine’s governance practices and its reserves in the Budget Stabilization Fund.
The Revenue Forecasting Committee has projected that the State will take in $10.5 billion in revenue for Fiscal Years 2024-2025 and approximately $11.6 billion in revenue for the following Fiscal Years 2026-2027.