Like many Maine parents across Maine, my husband Stan and I used to sit at our kitchen table, look over our bills, consider our family’s needs, and then budget – making the hard calls on how much of our paychecks to save or spend and what to spend them on.
Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
Like Maine families, the State of Maine makes hard decisions about how much to spend and what to spend the public’s money on. Earlier this month, Maine’s nonpartisan Revenue Forecasting Committee upgraded the State’s General Fund revenue forecast by about $223 million just for the current biennium, which ends this June. The Committee also upgraded revenue projections for 2024 and ‘25 by $71 million. The Committee noted, however, that revenues are beginning to plateau after years of significant increases during the pandemic, which we expected. But we aim to live within our means and still address immediate issues impacting Maine people.
Maine’s Constitution requires a balanced budget—that means that these projected surplus revenues must be allocated.
This week, I announced a change package to the budget and to use these projected revenues in a responsible way to address serious, pressing issues – like the housing crunch, homelessness, and food insecurity – while also still making thoughtful, strategic investments to strengthen our economy and make Maine a better place to live in the long-run and encourage businesses to move here and provide good paying jobs.
This legislation includes an additional $50 million, on top of the original $30 million proposed, for a total of $80 million to build more affordable housing for Maine people. That includes $35 million for the Rural Affordable Rental Housing Program, which is very popular, and $35 million for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. Together, these programs are expected to support nearly 500 new housing units statewide.
This legislation also includes an additional $12 million in one-time funding for emergency shelters for families and individuals experiencing homelessness. The legislation also establishes the “Housing First Program” to provide so-called “wraparound services” for people living in supportive housing.
The lack of affordable housing is a serious issue holding Maine people back. Another issue threatening the health and well-being of Maine people is food insecurity. The change package includes $2 million in one-time funding to prepare up to 10,000 meals a day for homeless, or sheltered, or other people with food insecurity.
Families struggling to afford housing and food simply can’t succeed. These investments will address the immediate, serious needs of Maine people, but we have to strengthen our economy at the same time to make sure that every person can find and keep a good-paying job that provides for their basic needs.
To expand job training for Maine people, the change package includes $5 million in one-time funding to create a workforce attraction pilot program; expand the Maine Career Exploration program; and enhance job support programs for older workers and people who have disabilities. The change package also includes $2.3 million in ongoing funding for the Maine Apprenticeship program.
To attract good businesses with good jobs to Maine, this legislation package also dedicates some of these revenues to modernize Maine’s business tax credits to reward companies who invest in workforce training.
These are just some of the strategic investments we are making. The legislation also includes funding to support children — doubling the state income tax credit for child care; launching the “Child Safety and Family Well-Being Plan” to prevent abuse and neglect; expanding community services for children with behavioral health needs; renovating schools that need repairs.
The change package also funds critical infrastructure repair, like drinking and wastewater improvements, and culvert replacement, allowing us to draw down more matching Federal funds for projects across the state.
The legislation is in addition to the more than $200 million worth of initiatives we’ve passed that provide tax relief to Maine people – like the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit and Property Tax Fairness Credit; the pension deduction, which cuts taxes for retirees; and the expanded Homestead Exemption to help with property taxes. And of course, for the first time in history, we’ve been funding 55 percent of the cost of education and we’re returning more money to towns through municipal revenue sharing, all intended to hold down property taxes.
We’ve proven that we can live within our means, addressing our most pressing issues while making investments in our future, just as Stan and I did for years at the kitchen table every night.
I look forward to working with the Legislature in the coming weeks to enact the change package and make those investments in our state.
This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening and to all the mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day.