Maine’s economy continues to make a strong recovery from the effects of the pandemic. We are now in the top fourteen states for jobs recovered, we brought back almost 100 percent of the jobs lost during the pandemic; our GDP growth over the past three years is 11th best in the entire nation; and our unemployment rate is down to 3.6 percent – below the New England average. Our Rainy Day Fund is at a record high; and we recorded a $1.2 billion surplus.
Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
Well just because our economy is making a strong comeback of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone is feeling it – because for many people, especially hardworking middle class and lower-income families, their budgets have been stretched to the brink by inflation and the rising cost of everyday goods from food to gas to heating fuel and electricity.
Well, I am happy to say that help is on the way.
Just one day after it was enacted with overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the Legislature, I was pleased to sign the supplemental budget into law this week.
This budget sends more than half of our surplus back to the people of Maine. These $850 relief checks, which will amount to $1,700 for an average family, represent one of the strongest – if not the strongest – relief proposal in the country.
I have directed the Department of Administrative and Financial Services to get these payments out as soon as they can – and we are hoping to have the first checks out the door by the beginning of June.
Look, we may not be able to control inflation or global markets or worldwide supply chain disruptions, but we can make sure that Maine people have something to help them grapple with these rising costs – and that is exactly what we are doing.
In addition to these give backs, this bipartisan supplemental budget cuts costs for Maine people in other ways:
It delivers even more property tax relief, it cuts taxes for Maine retirees and it expands other tax relief, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, for working Maine families.
The budget makes two years of community college free for students who were most impacted by the pandemic, that’s recent high school grads, and we deliver significant student loan relief so that graduates can get good-paying jobs here in Maine unburdened by school debt.
We raise wages for child care workers, and we fully fund school meals in public schools so that no child falls behind in their classwork because they just can’t learn on an empty stomach.
And we deliver much needed support to hospitals and nursing homes who have gone through so much during this pandemic.
These are just some of the important initiatives in this very strong, bipartisan, and fiscally responsible budget.
There are many more important things in this budget.
It’s also important to note what’s not in this budget as well.
There are no gimmicks.
There are no smoke and mirrors.
There is no borrowing, there is no bonding.
But what this budget shows, once again, like last year, is that through hard work and good faith negotiations, Democrats, Republicans and Independents can sit at the same table, come together, and do what is right for Maine people — and that we can do that without the rancor or bitter partisanship that has often divided Augusta in the past.
The bottom-line is this, for me: Maine people are our greatest asset – and this budget delivers for them.
This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.