It’s been a tough two years for Mainers. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant inflation as supply chain issues persist, made economic and societal inequities worse, and highlighted the weaknesses in our state’s safety net. But our leaders in Augusta are directing their attention to solutions that will not only help us recover but prosper in the long term.
Governor Mills recently publicized her proposal for the state’s supplemental budget, focusing on basic needs like education, healthcare, and housing, and supporting and strengthening Maine’s working families. Thanks to a generous $822 million surplus, the state will be providing each Maine taxpayer a one-time $750 check. Read on to learn about the other ways the latest budget could help Maine recover and grow.
MFWF-Supported Budget Items
In addition to providing Maine’s taxpayers with givebacks, Governor Mills’ proposed budget seeks to address basic needs like education, healthcare, and housing:
Two years of free community college: High schoolers graduating between 2020 and 2023 can take advantage of two years of free tuition if attending community college full-time. This is meant to meet workforce shortages and help students find jobs in fields with high demand.
Increased pay for child care workers and Early Childhood educators: During last year’s legislative session, House Speaker Ryan Fecteau spearheaded an initiative to make child care and early childhood education more affordable and accessible for all Mainers. At the same time, we need to ensure that we have the best staff and teachers to help our young children get the most out of their earliest years of development. This plan would invest more than $12 million in ongoing General Fund dollars to increase pay for child care workers and early childhood educators to strengthen our child care system across Maine.
Relief for Maine’s healthcare providers: The pandemic has stretched our state’s healthcare system to its very limits and beyond. Now Governor Mills is seeking to ease the strain on hospitals and long-term care facilities by providing a combined $50 million in one-time funding.
Expanded property tax relief: In an effort to address the ongoing housing crisis, Governor Mills seeks to invest $7 million from the General Fund to increase the maximum benefit of Maine’s Property Tax Fairness Credit. If approved, an estimated 100,000 low- and middle-income property owners and renters who pay more than 4 percent of their household budgets on property taxes or rent will be eligible for a refundable tax credit valued at up to $1,000 each year (or $1,500 per year for seniors).
The Governor’s budget proposal also looks to ease financial strains on working Mainers, including the impacts of inflation. Under this plan, the maximum benefit of Maine’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would increase by an average of $400 per family, bringing the total EITC benefit per family to an average of $764 per year. This would benefit an estimated 100,000 Mainers, primarily working families with incomes of less than $57,414.
PFML Remains a Priority
While we are in favor of many of the initiatives in Governor Mills’ proposed budget plan, it noticeably lacks a strong investment in developing the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program. The plan only allocates $300,000 in one-time General Fund dollars to fund an actuarial study of a potential statewide paid leave policy. Meanwhile, $12 million remains to be allocated by the Maine Legislature.
Maine’s working families can’t wait. The Commission on Paid Family and Medical Leave is working diligently to craft a program to meet our state’s unique needs, but we need financial support from the state to get the program off the ground. Tell our leaders in Augusta that we need to allocate funding for establishing a statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave program this session.