Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
Maine’s economy, like that of the rest of the nation, is making a comeback.
Our Gross Domestic Product, which is a key measure of growth, has not only fully bounced back from the pandemic, it has surpassed pre-pandemic projections.
Our unemployment rate, 4.7 percent – still too high – has fallen by nearly half what it was during the pandemic when it was at a high of 9.1 percent. Jobless rates in Bangor have fallen to 3.8 percent, to 4 percent in Lewiston and Auburn, and to 3.4 percent in the Portland area.
Only about 6,000 people are actually receiving unemployment benefits, which is comparable to the number before the pandemic.
Our auto mobile, building supply, lodging, retail and restaurant sales all were up this past summer.
Our international exports are up and on track to be the best since 2012. Our tourism industry had a banner summer season. And the ski slopes are seeing a lot of snow this year which is great for our winter economy.
Our population is growing at the second highest rate in New England. Finally people are coming to Maine. We have the 7th highest rate of net migration in the nation.
Our Rainy Day Fund has more than doubled under my Administration and it’s now nearly $500 million – the highest it has ever been.
And, after passing strong, balanced budgets we are reporting a record budget surplus.
We have done all this without raising taxes.
All of this is progress.
At the same time, we’re not immune from the impact of pandemic-driven inflation, from higher energy prices caused by a reliance on fossil fuels, to supply chain issues that contribute to higher prices for everything from potato chips to plastic ware, to ramen noodles and cat food, and even a scarcity of chocolate milk in Houlton and Moxie in Lisbon.
Through good, bipartisan work, we have already returned $371 million of our surplus income to Maine people and Maine businesses. We sent checks of $285 each to more than 500,000 working men and women in Maine. We provided millions more in tax relief for people and businesses in Maine.
But we have to do more for Maine people who are struggling with exorbitant electric bills and with inflation at the pump and at the grocery store and the uncertainty of the global economy.
Now many Republicans called for a return of half the new surplus to Maine people through direct checks. I think they’re right. And that’s why I proposed sending half of our surplus back to the people of Maine.
These direct checks to the people, which would amount to about $500 per person, would be distributed to an estimated 800,000 taxpayers in Maine to help them offset added costs, beginning as soon as July.
We’re not going to wait for next year’s tax returns. People need that money now.
As the Legislature considers my proposal, we’re also delivering relief in other important ways.
For example, the Public Utilities Commission just approved a proposal from the Public Advocate and my energy office that will give a direct $90 credit on electric bills for low-income Maine people.
Electricity prices are going up this winter because of a significant spike in global fossil fuel prices, especially natural gas. Maine, unfortunately, is far too reliant on natural gas to generate electricity.
Importantly, these credits will be paid for with federal funding — not by Maine taxpayers and ratepayers.
This is a welcome step forward, but we will continue to evaluate other ways to provide relief to more people as we all grapple with increased electricity costs and inflation at the pump and at the grocery store.
Well, I may not be able to control the impact of COVID-19 on global markets, but I can make sure that we help Maine people grapple with inflation as we build a stronger and more resilient economy.
That’s what I’m fighting for — progress. Progress for Maine people and a better future for all.
This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.