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In 2023, Maine made strides to help support our working families. With the passage of a statewide Paid Family & Medical Leave program, increased funding for childcare, and bills that expand absentee voting, the Legislature worked hard to prioritize the needs of families across the state.


As we look ahead in this new year, we know that there’s more work to be done to help our working families thrive. Mainers for Working Families will be working to push ahead these key measures in the coming year:


Ensuring Affordable and Accessible Healthcare


Healthcare costs in Maine are out of control. More than one in three skipped or delayed going to the doctor when they were sick and one in four cut pills in half, skipped doses of a medication, or delayed or did not fill a prescription, all due to cost.


There are several bills that the Legislature can pass that would help ease these burdens. These include:


  • LD 1829: An Act to Reduce Prescription Drug Costs by Requiring Reference-based Pricing; this bill ensures that prescription drug companies don’t price gouge the cost of medication. Under this bill, they can only raise the price to the maximum rate allowed under Medicare, which is determined by the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

  • LD 1955: An Act to Require Hospitals and Hospital-affiliated Providers to Provide Financial Assistance for Medical Care; this bill requires hospitals to expand free care to more lower-income Mainers, simplify the application process to receive that care, and require that hospitals immediately inform patients that they qualify. Hospitals will also be required to offer fair terms for payment plans, with terms of at least two years, and ban them from unfair debt collection practices, like sending bills to collections before the 8-month mark or pricing monthly payments well above what patients can afford.


There is also a task force convened to provide recommendations on how to prevent Mainers from being saddled with the costs of facility fees, and reports coming out of the Maine Office of Affordable Health Care, which will also provide guidance and recommendations on how to make healthcare more affordable for Mainers. 


Curbing High Heating Costs


Maine’s families are under pressure constantly from the ever-increasing cost of heating their homes. Meanwhile, utility companies are hiking up rates and making high profits, while their customers continue to rate their service poorly.


Right now, the Legislature is considering LD 916: An Act to Establish a Windfall Profits Tax on Electric Utilities to Assist with Residential Heating Costs. This bill would create a tax on these companies, who have seen above-average profits, and use that revenue to provide direct financial assistance to Mainers to help heat their homes.


Making Housing More Affordable 


Maine is in the midst of a housing crisis. Not only is there not enough housing, with Maine being nearly 38,000 units short of the projected need, but the available housing is too expensive for lower and middle-income Mainers. It’s hurting Maine families, and preventing our state’s economy from growing stronger. 


The Legislature has several bills forward that could help fix this problem, including:


  • LD 1490: An Act to Reduce Rental Housing Costs by Eliminating Additional Fees at or Prior to the Commencement of Tenancy; this bill would prevent a landlord, their agent or a real estate broker from changing any additional fees beyond rent for the first full month of occupancy, a security deposit and the cost of a lock and key.

  • LD 1538: An Act to Provide Tax Benefits to Persons Constructing Accessory Dwelling Units; this bill would provide a partial property tax reimbursement to homeowners who build an additional dwelling unit on their property.

  •  LD 1710: An Act to Establish the Maine Rental Assistance and Guarantee Program and Amend the Laws Regarding Tenants and the Municipal General Assistance Program; this bill requires the Maine State Housing Authority to create a new program that provides Mainers with rental assistance, prohibits acts of discrimination against tenants who receive rental assistance, requires owners of more than 10 residential

rental units to ensure that at least 10% of the rental units are set aside for affordable housing and more.


Establishing Corporate Tax Transparency


Maine is made up of primarily small businesses, but we have many corporations that work in state. Often, corporations can find loopholes in the tax code, and avoid paying their fair share. This hurts everyone – our small businesses, our working families, and our economy. 


The Legislature is currently considering LD 1337: An Act to Require a Corporation That Files a Tax Return in the State to File a Tax Disclosure Statement. This bill will require corporations who do business in Maine to file public tax disclosure statements, readily available to all who want to view them. This transparency will ensure that we know exactly what taxes they’re filing, and if they’re avoiding paying their fair share. It will ensure that corporations can’t keep dodging their taxes. It puts that money back into our economy and will level the playing field for our small businesses and working families


In the year ahead, we need our leaders in Augusta to step up to the plate for Maine’s working families. From addressing the health care and housing crises, helping people heat their homes, and making sure corporations pay their fair share, there’s much to do to ensure that everyone has what they need to thrive.

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Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Maine’s 2023 legislative session proved to be one of the most eventful and historic in recent memory. With the session now closed, lawmakers were successful in passing strong safety nets for Maine families, making healthcare more affordable, improving the quality of life of working families, and protecting ballot access for Maine voters.


Here are a few priority bills lawmakers worked to pass:


Paid Family & Medical Leave

Our lawmakers approved a historic Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program in Maine. Starting in 2026, employees can take up to 12-weeks of paid leave to tend to a sick or dying loved one, care for a newborn, or recover from their own health challenges. This will ensure that working Mainers are able to care for themselves or a sick family member without missing out on a paycheck.


“A Paid leave program fills in the gaps to make sure people don’t lose their financial security when the worst happens,” said Assistant Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry.



Funding Childcare

22 percent of Mainers live in an area where there are more than three times as many children under the age of five as there are licensed child care slots, and nearly 85 percent of childcare providers see staff shortages.


The legislature added funds to the budget to ensure that both families and childcare providers have the support they need. This includes expanding childcare subsidies so more families are eligible, raising the monthly stipend for childcare workers, and directing the DHHS to implement a program to achieve affordable childcare by 2030.



Protecting Our Democracy

Maine legislators worked hard during this session to help safeguard democracy by making our elections safer and more accessible for everyone. They bolstered absentee voting by passing legislation to allow all registered voters the flexibility to automatically receive an absentee ballot in the mail each election. “What’s so exciting about this bill is it makes voting even more accessible and convenient for your average Mainer,” said Secretary of State Shenna Bellows.


Lawmakers also passed legislation that prevents a foreign government or entity from contributing money to influence ballot initiatives. The bill also asks Maine’s Congressional delegation to support and promote an anti-corruption amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Janet Mills vetoed this bill, ignoring the will of the Maine people.



Exploring the Public Option

Our leaders approved the development of a commission to study how Maine could establish a public option health care plan in the state. A public option would essentially function as a health insurance coverage program run by the state and made available alongside existing private health insurance plans. The public option would be available to all Mainers, and could ensure lower insurance rates and more comprehensive coverage for everyone.


The commission’s work could start the process of improving healthcare accessibility for thousands of Mainers when they fall sick, and help reduce the rate at which many others accrue medical debt.



Preventing Political Rate Hikes

Mainers experience some of the highest electricity rates in the country while enduring the most power outages of any state. Companies can then take the profits from rate hikes to spend money on political campaigns or ballot initiatives.


Lawmakers passed legislation that prohibits utility companies from regaining any campaign expenses they had previously incurred from consumers via rate hikes. Corporations would no longer be able to spend exorbitant amounts of money on ballot initiatives and ask ratepayers to foot the bill for their political agenda.

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A recent survey revealed that a majority of Mainers believe they are one medical emergency or illness away from financial disaster. The growing cost of healthcare in Maine causes more than one in three residents to skip or delay going to the doctor when sick.


Now Maine lawmakers are looking to change that statistic by making healthcare more affordable. LD 1856: Resolve to Study the Establishment of a MaineCare Public Health Plan, would create a study commission to establish a public option health care plan in Maine.

Under the proposed legislation, the Office of Affordable Health Care and the Department of Health and Human Services would study the options for establishing a MaineCare public health plan. Once their findings are complete, they would submit a report to the Joint Standing Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services with its recommendations, including any suggested legislation.


A public option would function as a health insurance coverage program run by the state and made available alongside existing private health insurance plans. Maine currently has a MaineCare program, which according to the state website, provides free and low-cost health insurance to Mainers who meet certain requirements, based on household composition and income. This newly proposed measure would establish a program available to all Mainers.


As things stand, healthcare affordability remains a critical issue for working Mainers and their families. The Maine Beacon recently reported that more than four out of ten Mainers have medical debt in their household, and nearly all of them who’ve accrued that debt within the past two years still have it.


LD 1856 would initiate the process of developing a more comprehensive and affordable public health care option for working families. We look forward to seeing the Maine Legislature adopt and pass this bill.

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