AUGUSTA – Today, Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash, House Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford, Senator Cathy Breen of Falmouth, and Representative Teresa Pierce of Falmouth, proposed the “Back-to-Basics” Biennial Budget in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under this proposal, the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee would vote out a smart, responsible biennial budget that pays the bills and funds existing services by the end of the week to provide Maine people, schools and businesses with stability as the economy reopens. Any new initiatives or spending would wait until a future supplemental budget.
This proposal echoes how the Maine Legislature approached the biennial budget in the 1980s, mid-to-late 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s.
“After more than a year of tragedy, hardship and prolonged uncertainty, Maine lawmakers aren’t interested in wasting time. It’s why we’re introducing the Back-to-Basics Budget today. We know Maine people and businesses are counting on us to get to work so they can rebuild their communities, businesses and lives. School districts all across the state need to know what they’re getting for funding now so they can plan to reopen five-days a week in the fall. Maine taxpayers deserve to know that lawmakers are keeping their promises on property tax relief. Our outdoor recreation economy as well as our tourism industry deserve to know that our campgrounds and state parks will continue attracting tourists at unprecedented rates all summer long.
“Putting the biennial budget off until the final hour would be reckless. Mainers are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not interested in doing anything that jeopardizes our health and economic recovery. Right now, Republicans and Democrats have the opportunity to come together and pass a bipartisan budget that funds essential services. New initiatives can wait until later.”
“Mainers want to return to work and school safely and as soon as possible. Maine businesses are counting on our state to be one of the safest, as they prepare for the critical tourism season. All of this relies on how well Maine recovers and rebounds from the pandemic. More and more Mainers are being vaccinated every day. Testing is widely available to residents and visitors alike. We can finally see the path to a safe and strong recovery. Throughout this pandemic and the economic turmoil, my number one goal has been to provide safety, stability, and security to Maine people and businesses.
Getting our baseline budget finalized now is the responsible thing to do. We need to provide stability and predictability for Maine people and businesses, then deal with the federal aid coming into our state. Passing this Back-to-Basics budget now will set up our state for a strong economic recovery and will give our schools the opportunity to plan for re-opening in the fall.”
“In the wake of a public health and economic crisis, Maine people are looking to their elected officials for governance, not politics. With this ‘no-frills’ budget that pays the bills and funds essential services, we can provide families, businesses and entire communities with the guidance and stability they deserve.
“Passing a biennial budget ahead of the summer months used to be commonplace in the Maine Legislature. It’s during turbulent times like these where it only makes sense to take a smart, proactive approach. The Back-to-Basics budget is about meeting the needs of this moment and giving Maine people stability as they get back on their feet.
“Last March, the Maine Legislature came together and rose to the moment by passing a supplemental budget that prioritized Maine workers, families and businesses in the face of an impending crisis. This year, as Maine continues to grapple with an unprecedented public health crisis, lawmakers must do the same. Lawmakers must put politics aside and provide Maine people with the leadership this crisis demands.”
“We’ve spent the last several weeks concluding public hearings on the biennial budget. Now, we are ready to pass a sensible budget that funds essential services through the duration of the pandemic and sees Maine into a recovery phase. The point of this is to let Maine schools know what they can expect in an effort to get them fully reopened in the fall. It’s to let Maine people know that tax relief like the homestead exemption is coming their way. Maine businesses have asked for stability and predictability, so we want to deliver for them. This is a responsible budget of needs, not wants. Passing this budget will allow us to get to work with the full Legislature on how to judiciously allocate federal aid, which will be our next order of business after this budget is passed.”
The Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold work sessions on the biennial budget this week to finalize the details of the “Back-to-Basics” budget.