AUGUSTA – The Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee approved a supplemental budget that supports Maine workers and small businesses on Thursday. The vote was 8-5. The bill gives Maine businesses and unemployed Mainers a break from paying taxes on relief funds they received during the pandemic.
Republicans rejected two compromise proposals on the Paycheck Protection Program both from the Mills administration and Democrats on the AFA Committee in favor of a proposal that costs an additional $32 million.
Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford released a statement praising the supplemental budget proposal for championing relief for Maine workers and businesses while supporting the direct care professionals who have done heroic work caring for Maine people in the middle of a pandemic.
“In the Maine Legislature, our priority should be Maine people and businesses, especially following a year of profound loss and economic turmoil. At a time when Maine workers and businesses are anxiously waiting for some much-needed relief, the supplemental budget should invest resources where we need them most. Today, Democrats on the budget committee adopted a proposal that supports more than 160,000 working Mainers and the more than 28,270 businesses that participated in the Paycheck Protection Program. For the past two months, we’ve tried to negotiate in good faith and deliver for Maine workers and business by coming up with three different proposals to get our colleagues on board. Instead, it seems my Republican colleagues would rather go to the mat for three-martini-lunches and overseas tax havens. To say that I’m beyond frustrated would be an understatement.”
“A year ago, it would’ve been hard to imagine all that Maine would go through during this difficult year. Despite the hardships we’ve endured together, Mainers have stepped up in so many ways to get through this crisis. Our job as Legislators is to be the best stewards for Mainers and guide us through a recovery in a responsible way. This supplemental budget proposal addresses the needs of the families who never could’ve imagined where they’d be today. This proposal shows our commitment to Maine businesses and it shows we can fight for all Mainers. Unemployed Mainers were about to be taxed on the aid they received during the pandemic. Direct care providers have not had help to stay afloat through the pandemic. This proposal makes sure we don’t leave them behind in our state’s recovery, demonstrating our recovery requires lifting up Maine businesses and Maine families.”
The supplemental budget will now go before the full Legislature for consideration when lawmakers convene at the Augusta Civic Center next week. It must secure a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate before going to Governor Janet Mills’ desk for her signature.
Supplemental Budget Highlights:
- Critical relief for 160,000 Mainers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic: The supplemental budget includes $47 million to exempt unemployment benefits from state income taxes for hardworking Mainers, who lost their job through no fault of their own. This includes self-employed Mainers who saw their work dry up and Mainers who saw their workplaces close. Without this relief, Mainers who relied on unemployment benefits at some point during the pandemic would’ve been hit with $200-$500 per person in state taxes.
- Support for Maine businesses: The supplemental budget allocates $100 million to exempt all Maine businesses who accessed relief through the Paycheck Protection Program from state income taxes. This relief would support more than 28,000 businesses across the state.
- Targeted-relief to direct care workers and nonprofit providers: The supplemental budget proposal provides $30 million in state and federal money to the people who provide quality, compassionate care to Maine seniors and individuals with disabilities. These are targeted funds for nonprofit providers that did not get Paycheck Protection Program funds, state grants or any other relief and have struggled to meet the needs of Maine people, especially as COVID-19-related mental health concerns increase. These funds target people who provide support through MaineCare sections 18, 20, 21, 29, 17, 28 and 65.
OTHER KEY PROVISIONS:
- Supports the Early College Aspirations program for working-class Mainers: The Aspirations Program provides eligible Maine high school students with an opportunity to receive academic credits toward a high school diploma, and an associate or baccalaureate-level degree, through enrollment and successful completion of college-level courses at approved Maine institutions.
- Invests in a new Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System: This efficient new system, which improves DHHS’s ability to track and share data, will allow caseworkers to spend more time working directly with families.
- Takes steps to address contamination from “forever chemicals”: The supplemental budget establishes a fund to address growing concerns with PFAS.
- Promotes the construction of affordable housing in Maine: Language in the budget maximizes the value of Maine’s low-income housing credit by conforming with a recent change to the federal credit.