Governor Mills: We will need more support from Congress if we are to spare our state from more hard choices in the coming months and years.

in March at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Maine State Legislature and my Administration worked closely together to pass a supplemental budget and some emergency legislation. Among other things, it set aside more than $100 million to prepare our state for the economic hardship we could see would soon be following.  

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

Since that time, in July of this year, the non-partisan Revenue Forecasting Committee projected that the State of Maine will face a $528 million revenue shortfall for the upcoming biennial budget as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Well to fill that anticipated shortfall, I have instructed State government departments, agencies and public institutions to start identifying possible savings in things that could minimize the impact to our hardworking state employees and to the critical services that Maine people rely on, including aid to public education, critical health care and child protection services.

So, this week, my Commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services Kirsten Figueroa presented me with her recommendations to balance the state budget for this current year.

Her recommendations include a combination of using unspent funds from last year, using federal CARES Act funding to pay for our public health and public safety employees under the federal rules, and using higher than anticipated revenue from historic alcohol sales over the years. Importantly this proposal does not touch the Rainy Day Fund, which currently has a balance of more than $258 million. Again, the Rainy Day Fund is untouched.

While every state in the nation is facing significant budget shortfalls, and some much more severe than ours, our own early actions in this pandemic - including avoiding non-emergency spending by the State and avoiding filling vacancies across state government – these actions protected Maine’s fiscal stability in the short term and prevented significant impacts to the services that Maine people rely on and we kept our bond rating secure.

I am now reviewing Commissioner Figueroa’s recommendations to further stabilize the state’s budget, but one thing is clear: while we have avoided painful cuts this year, we will need more support from Congress if we are to spare our state from more hard choices in the coming months and years.

I have given my departments more time to craft their budget proposals for the next biennium in the hope that Congress will act as they are talking about doing and in the hope that more help will arrive from the federal government for all states in time to prevent future cuts by our state.

As I have done over the past several months, I will continue to join the chorus of governors across the country, bipartisan voices through the National Governors Association, urging Congress to provide critical aid to state and local governments now so that we can all continue to preserve critical services for Maine people and chart a full economic recovery for the people of our state.

This is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening and please, stay safe.