When I presented my budget proposal earlier this year, I said if we want to build a stronger, more prosperous state, then we have to invest in our greatest asset: the people of Maine.
Well, I’m pleased to say that I signed the budget this week, and that budget delivers on delivers on that guiding belief.
Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
This budget makes transformative investments in Maine people. With this budget, Maine becomes the 13th state in the nation to create a paid family and medical leave program that will take effect in the coming years. It’s a program that will make it easier for people to balance work with life’s unexpected challenges, caring for a sick child for instance, or an aging parent, while remaining flexible to accommodate potential hardships for employers. I want to thank the sponsors, Senator Daughtry, Representative Cloutier, and members of the business community who sat with us and negotiated some of these provisions, as well as Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman for all their work on this measure.
This budget will also make it easier for Maine businesses to find workers they need by establishing the Dirigo Business Incentive Program. That’s my proposal to modernize Maine’s business tax incentives and better reflect the needs of our economy. This new program will attract businesses to move or expand here by providing a tax incentive for every worker that business trains in high-value careers and for capital investments those businesses make in our communities. I want to express my thanks to my Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Heather Johnson for her diligent work on this measure.
The budget also makes historic investments in housing – adopting the highly successful housing first model to reduce chronic homelessness; building more housing for Maine people; providing funding for shelters. Housing is such a huge need, and we are addressing it. Thank you to Speaker Talbot Ross for her work on this issue and to Greg Payne, my senior housing advisor.
To improve the health and wellbeing of Maine people, the budget also increases our MaineCare provider rates for behavioral health care and community services for children with health care needs and their families. The budget also includes funding to implement our Child Safety and Family Well-being Plan to keep children safe, keeping families strong. Thank you to Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew for her work on this on this measure.
We also continue to tackle child care challenges. This budget will make it easier for families to access affordable child care by increasing financial support for Maine families and doubling the monthly stipends that we provide child care facilities to recruit and retain qualified staff – all of these are important moves, and I want to thank Senate President Troy Jackson for his important work on this measure.
All of this work builds on our success in maintaining 5 percent revenue sharing for town and cities and 55 percent for the state’s share of the cost of education, in order to try to keep property taxes down, as well as full funding for free school meals to ensure that no child goes hungry in this state.
And importantly, this budget is balanced. It protects our record high Budget Stabilization, or “Rainy Day Fund,” and it uses revenues responsibly to make investments in the well-being of Maine families, communities, and businesses.
It received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Appropriations Committee, and I want to thank the bipartisan work of that committee – particularly the Republican input which resulted in our including a significant tax reduction for seniors by exempting the first $35,000 of retirement incomes from income taxes, and that income tax exemption will go up in the coming years.
It wouldn’t be possible to do this work without my Commissioner of Administrative and Financial Services, Kirsten Figueroa, and her dedicated team, including Associate Commissioner Jenny Boyden and State Budget Officer Beth Ashcroft.
So, this is a budget that we can be proud of, and I want to thank lawmakers, especially the members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, for their work to pass this budget. I was proud to sign it into law.
This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.