Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
This week, we bring 2021 to a close.
Well there’s a lot to celebrate about the end of 2021.
It’s been a hard year in many ways, but Maine people are resilient, and we’ve achieved a lot this year actually despite the challenges.
Unemployment is down; our Gross Domestic Product is up; our tourism and hospitality industries reported some of their best summers ever. Real estate sales are up. People are moving here. We have one of the lowest crime rates in the country. People are coming here because we are one of the safest states in the nation.
And we’re fighting to keep it that way. We’re fighting this pandemic with all we’ve got to make sure Maine people are safe, including the many children who are still too young to get vaccinated.
In the last year, more than a million people have gotten fully vaccinated from COVID-19 here in Maine. And it’s thanks to them that Maine has among the lowest death rates from COVID-19, despite having a much older population than other states.
At the same time that we’ve been fighting the pandemic, we also brought Republicans, Democrats and Independents together and passed a bipartisan budget that fully funded public education for the first time ever. We made historic investments in our health care system, helping the front-line heroes who cared for the rest of us. And that’s why now we are able to raise reimbursements rates and give direct care workers at nursing homes and elsewhere a much-needed pay raise.
We also restored revenue sharing, which is how the state gives money back to towns and cities so they don’t have to raise your property taxes. And we worked together to give back money to Maine people who worked during the pandemic - direct hazard payments of $285 a piece to more than half a million people - you may have gotten your check in the mail recently. And our state budget set aside millions of dollars in savings, bringing our Rainy Day Fund to its highest level ever.
And after President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, allocating federal stimulus funds to the State, we worked with the Legislature to enact the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan. With those funds, we’ve already begun rolling out more than $300 million to train people for new jobs; to make housing, health care, and child care more affordable, more available; to help small businesses; and to help keep our economy strong.
We also continued to fight climate change. We installed thousands of high-efficiency heat pumps and hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations, cutting energy costs for Maine families with weatherization and cutting dangerous carbon emissions. We have increased solar power by more than four-fold since 2019 and we’ve created new, good-paying clean energy jobs. And we funded the Land for Maine’s Future for the first time in the budget, so we can protect our working woods and waterways.
And thanks to our good fiscal management and careful allocation of federal and state pandemic relief, we are expecting a surplus of about $822 million over the next two years – that’s an increase of almost 10 percent over projections.
Still, inflation driven by the pandemic and supply chain issues is hurting us. The price of heating oil, gas, electricity and groceries is hitting people’s pocketbooks right now at a particularly hard time of year. And that bothers me just like it bothers you.
I think we should give money back to people. That’s why, in the New Year, I’ll be proposing a supplemental budget to the Legislature that gives money back to you.
I’ll be listening to Democrats, Republicans and Independents on the best way to do that, and we will get to work soon.
In 2022, I’m going to be focused on our economy, on our climate, on our kids, on keeping people safe and on the health and welfare of all Maine people.
We’ve always faced challenges together, with the grit and determination that has made us who we are – one community of hardworking people taking care of each other every day, every year.
With that spirit, I’m excited about the potential that 2022 holds for our great state.
I am so proud of the people of Maine. And so proud to be your Governor. Happy New Year, Maine!
This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.