Relief checks drive Janet Mills’ $850 million budget plan that would boost state spending again


AUGUSTA, Maine — Governor Janet Mills on Tuesday unveiled details of an $850 million supplementary budget proposal that includes $500 relief checks and would boost state spending to record highs.

The Democratic governor’s proposal has been released in pieces in recent months, with Mills teasing high-profile articles last week during his state of the state address. Chief among the items is a return of $411 million in excess revenue to the Mainers in another round of checks, something Mills incorporated after legislative Republicans recommended it.

Mills’ plan goes far beyond that, spending an additional $850 million in revenue primarily through federal aid from COVID-19 relief programs on top of a two-year $8.5 billion budget passed by lawmakers in 2021. That includes $640 million in one-time spending. — such as checks to 800,000 Mainers — and $137 million in spending in the state’s regular budget.

the ambitious project would use almost all of the projected excess revenue through mid-2023 and leave $12 million undedicated, according to state budget documents. About $100 million would be spent on roads and bridges. Stabilization funds for Medicaid and K-12 school fees would each receive $30 million. Another $30 million would go to healthcare worker payment rates.

Almost as much would be set aside to continue paying for free school meals. It includes more money for cost-of-living increases for state retiree pensions and another investment in the state’s rainy day fund to bring it to a historic $500 million. dollars.

The scale is likely to draw rebuke from Republicans wary of boosting the state’s bottom line and skepticism about the use of one-time funds. The governor framed the proposal as a way to fight inflation and help the state’s labor issues. That framing will take center stage for the rest of the year in his November matchup with former Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

Mills called it a fiscally responsible document and highlighted the bipartisan ideas it contains in a press release Tuesday. It will now be considered by the Legislature’s budget committee in a busy election session due to end in April.

“I look forward to working with the Legislative Assembly as it considers this proposal and commend it for the ideas we have incorporated into it,” she said.

Republicans are likely to focus on what share of spending will go to current spending when deciding how much to support, but he has opposed giving an opinion on the full budget until his party meets to discuss it. , said Rep. Sawin Millett, R-Waterford. , member of the budget committee.

He added that lawmakers will be watching the spring revenue forecast to understand whether the winter revenue projections should hold and to see if the economic recovery will continue beyond the influence of federal aid.

“Then we can really draw conclusions about the proposed uses,” he said.


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