AUGUSTA – Governor Janet T. Mills signed a responsible biennial budget into law on Wednesday. The Back-to-Basics Budget provides critical funding for schools, property tax relief, health care, nursing homes and other essential services over the next two years.
Presiding Officers and Chairs of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee released the following statements praising the budget and outlining the work that lies ahead:
Senate President Troy Jackson:
“Now that the Back-to-Basics Budget has been signed into law, Maine people and businesses don’t have to worry about politics threatening our health and economic recovery. Maine people can take comfort knowing that lawmakers have kept their promises on property taxes and breathe a little easier knowing nursing homes, rural hospitals and health clinics are getting the funds needed to operate. Schools have a clear picture of what they should expect for funding and can make plans to safely reopen for students and teachers – much to the relief of everyone, especially working parents. The businesses that rely on tourism can have confidence that state parks and public beaches will remain open, attracting tourists at unprecedented rates.
“At the start of this legislative session, I said that Maine people were looking to lawmakers to lead our state through this crisis and lay the foundation to rebuild our communities, our economy and our lives. By adopting the Back-to-Basics Budget yesterday, Maine lawmakers have taken care of essential services. Now, we can focus our energy on lowering health care costs, lifting up Maine workers and businesses, and supporting our seniors and families.”
House Speaker Ryan Fecteau:
“Last night, we passed a two-year Back to Basics state budget that will invest in Maine’s recovery after a long year that has been anything but predictable. We did not wait until the bitter end, when politics take center stage. This moment required action in the immediate. Maine businesses and families can be rest assured that our state will not shut down this year. We can continue our steadfast focus on keeping Maine healthy, rebounding our economy and building a stronger Maine.
“Now, we can concentrate on addressing challenges faced by Mainers. I’ll be pushing for solutions to grow affordable housing and childcare access in our state, and exploring opportunities for more Mainers to access badly needed dental care and career and technical education.”
Senator Cathy Breen:
“The Back-to-Basics Budget brings much-needed stability to Maine people, communities and businesses after a year of instability and loss. It’s a judicious budget that funds the essential services that Maine people and communities depend on, including the added funding from 2019 for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. This budget basically extends the budgets we’ve had in place over the past two years, all of which had bipartisan support.”
“Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard growing concerns from many parents about the need for schools to fully reopen. With this budget, schools have the information and funds they need to make the plans to reopen safely for our students and teachers. It also provides funding for revenue sharing, which will help municipalities pay for essential services, including schools, and limit their reliance on property taxpayers to fill the gap. It’s a budget that gives Maine people the certainty they need as lawmakers work to speed up our recovery and build a more prosperous economy. Now that the biennial budget is behind us, I look forward to working with Gov. Mills and my colleagues to pass policies that work for Maine people.”
Representative Teresa Pierce:
“After a year of uncertainty and loss, it is imperative that we continue our strong public health and economic recovery. Passing this budget and seeing it signed into law puts Maine’s recovery first. We are ahead of schedule in covering the current services of the state, keeping our books balanced, providing certainty and predictability for our summer tourism season and ensuring needed funds can help our schools plan for the fall.
“Next, the Legislature will work with the Mills administration to address federal funds that will be coming into our state through the American Rescue Plan and work on a transportation budget. We’ll consider and debate other important policy changes and reforms. I look forward to continuing our work for the people of Maine.”
BACK-TO-BASICS BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS
- The Back-to-Basics Budget keeps our promises on property tax relief.
- Under this budget, 54,000 Mainers can get property tax and/or rent relief through the Property Tax Fairness Tax Credit. The state returns a portion of property tax or rent to eligible Maine homeowners and renters when they file their income tax returns. Maine seniors can save up to $1,250 in property taxes, and eligible working Mainers and families can save up to $750 on property taxes or rent.
- Under this budget, Maine homeowners can take $25,000 off the value of their home and only pay property taxes on the remaining amount through the Homestead Exemption Program. Towns will get 70 percent reimbursement from the state.
- Under this budget, Maine people and municipalities can count revenue sharing at 3.75 percent to stabilize property taxes and fund essential services. Historically, Maine returns a percentage of the revenue generated by sales and income tax back to cities and towns. The goal is to fund property tax relief by helping to pay for these municipalities’ local schools, police officers and other essential services.
- The Back-to-Basics Budget keeps our children safe and supports Maine teachers and school districts as they prepare to reopen for in-person learning in the fall.
- School districts all across the state need to know what they are getting for funding now so they can plan to fully return to in-person instruction five days a week in the fall. The “Back-to-Basics” budget adds $45 million for education, bringing the total share of state funding up to the highest level it’s been at 51.83 percent.
- The budget continues ongoing workforce training funding for the Maine Community College System to help fill critical gaps in the workforce.
- The Back-to-Basics Budget supports rural hospitals and the health of Maine people.
- The budget invests in our rural hospitals, nursing homes, and health clinics so Maine people can continue to rely on them in a public health crisis.
- The budget funds the low-cost drugs from Maine’s elderly program providing relief to Maine seniors. The high cost of prescription drugs is harming our seniors, who need this medicine to survive. The budget funds another program that makes prescription drugs more affordable and accessible to our seniors.
- The budget prioritizes the safety of Maine children and families from violence. It allocates $5 million to domestic violence and sexual assault services and supports child protection workers. The goal is to better protect Maine children from child abuse, provide relief to caseworkers with unmanageable caseloads and step up for survivors of abuse and assault.