What They Are Saying: Leaders Praise Governor Mills’ Budget Proposal For Fully Funding Education

May 12, 2021

“Today is a historic day for students, educators, and the people of Maine.”

“Today’s announcement exemplifies the kind of leadership and commitment to education that Maine students deserve from their Governor.”

“Incredible news.”

Governor Janet Mills today released her Administration’s Part 2 budget proposal for the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 biennium, which – for the first time in Maine’s history – meets the State’s obligation to pay 55 percent of the cost of K-12 education.

Leaders, advocates, and other experts from across Maine are praising the Governor’s proposal, which also invests in a host of bipartisan priorities, including initiatives to improve the health of Maine people; tax relief for low- and middle-income Maine people; enhanced revenue sharing with municipalities; PFAS remediation; and infrastructure upgrades – all while adding money to the Budget Stabilization, or “Rainy Day” Fund.

Here’s what they are saying:

On Investing in Maine Kids and Schools & Tax Relief for Maine People

“Today is a historic day for students, educators, and the people of Maine. For more than 15 years, educators around the state have called for 55 percent State funding for our schools. The purpose was to ensure a basic level of funding for our public schools, so we can have well-resourced public schools available to all children, regardless of their zip codes, while also keeping property taxes in check,” said Grace Leavitt, President of the Maine Education Association. “The proposal from Governor Mills today finally recognizes what the voters demanded in 2004 and then again in 2016, via ballot initiatives. The people have spoken, and Governor Mills is delivering – for Maine’s students, for our communities, and for our educators. The MEA applauds the Governor’s proposal.  We look forward to celebrating this historic achievement once it is passed by the Legislature and to continuing to work with the Department of Education and other education organizations to support our students and public education in Maine.”

“Today’s announcement exemplifies the kind of leadership and commitment to education that Maine students deserve from their Governor,” said Eileen King, Executive Director of Maine School Superintendents Association. “Governor Mills is upholding a promise and the will of Maine people to support and prioritize our schools. This will have both immediate and long-term benefits for our schools, communities and students, and demonstrates the importance of delivering on our promises and investing in our future.”

“This is incredible news for School Boards who have been working on budgets and trying to do the right thing for students, staff and our taxpayers,” said Steven Bailey, Executive Director of the Maine School Boards Association. “The Governor’s decision to fully fund the State share couldn’t have come at a better time. We know there are people in our communities who have always supported their local schools, but saw their income drop this year because of COVID-19.  This additional support for education from the state will be greatly welcomed.”

“Immediately upon taking office, Governor Mills made Maine's public education system a top priority, investing in a minimum teacher salary of $40,000, increasing the State's contribution to offset local education costs, and allocating millions of dollars to local schools for pandemic response. The Mills Administration has championed equity and excellence for all students while elevating professional respect and opportunities for educators and school leaders,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner for the Department of Education. “Today, at a time when the value of local public education has never been more clear, we move to a bold and unprecedented commitment of funding as Governor Mills aims to become the first and only leader to achieve Maine's long-sought goal of 55 percent contribution to the total cost of pre-K through grade 12 public education. For nearly two decades, the incremental funding targets shifted, extending the timeline further into the future with each biennium, leaving a disproportionate cost for local taxpayers. Today, with this historic announcement, Governor Mills fulfills a long overdue promise to Maine students and schools - and to the communities they serve.”

“I want to thank Governor Mills for recognizing our System’s very real need for additional investment and the tremendous return we provide on it in the form of talent development and innovation,” said Dannel Malloy, University of Maine System Chancellor.  “Consistent with the bipartisan recommendation of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, this level of supplemental funding will keep high-impact education, research and public service, and workforce training within reach for all Mainers.”

The supplemental budget proposal also includes $1.5 million annually for the University of Maine School of Law, led by Dean Leigh Saufley.

“This new appropriation for Maine's only law school will help support Maine Law's transition to a new home, with expanded enrollment and scholarship support, as the University of Maine System makes plans for the law school's future role in the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center,” Chancellor Malloy continued. “When coupled with historic private investment, including from the Harold Alfond Foundation, Maine Law will be repositioned as a vibrant strategic asset to move Maine commerce forward.”

“I sincerely appreciate that the Governor’s supplemental budget includes operational funding for the Maine community colleges that will directly support the hard-working faculty and staff across the system,” said David Daigler, President of the Maine Community College System. “We’re also greatly encouraged that the Governor’s budget includes other items that will benefit our students, such as $10 million that will more than double the Maine State Grant from $1,000 a year to $2,500 a year. That will make a huge difference for our students who need support our support now more than ever.”

“Curtis Hall is our single most important residence hall and a critical part of our campus infrastructure,” said Dr. William Brennan, President of Maine Maritime Academy. “I am very pleased that the Governor has included funding for renovation of this state asset, demonstrating the value of Maine Maritime Academy as part of the State’s Higher Education partnership.”

“This supplemental budget represents a significant win for Maine families, especially those families who struggled to make ends meet even before the pandemic,” said Garrett Martin, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy. “By fully funding education for the first time in nearly two decades, boosting the Earned Income Tax Credit, and expanding the Child Tax Credit, this bill makes a big investment in Maine families. Each of these policies will reduce poverty, increase opportunity, and help lay a foundation for success for all Mainers –especially our children. We applaud the administration for putting Maine’s surplus revenue to work for Maine families.”  

On Improving the Health of Maine People:

“On her first day in office, Governor Mills expanded Medicaid and directed the development of a plan to make MaineCare stronger and sustainable. Today’s budget allows us to act on that plan, launching payment rate reforms, making short-term investments to reduce long-term costs, and adding to the Medicaid Stabilization Fund to continue implementation in the coming years,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner for the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Our kids are relentlessly targeted by the tobacco industry,” said Dr. Deborah Hagler, a Brunswick pediatrician and President of the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Menthol, candy, and dessert flavors lure them, then nicotine gets them hooked. As a pediatrician and a parent, I am incredibly grateful to Governor Mills for prioritizing the health of Maine kids. Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products may well be one of the most important children’s health policies of our era. It will give all Maine kids the opportunity for a brighter, healthier future, free from tobacco addiction.”

“We are so pleased to see this budget recognize that dental care IS health care by adding dental coverage for adults covered by MaineCare,” said Robyn Merrill, Executive Director of the Maine Equal Justice Project. “As a result, 217,000 Mainers will gain access to oral health care that includes preventive services and treatments they have had to go without. Today marks a meaningful turning point for Mainers who have lived with pain, stigma, and poor health effects from a lack of dental care. We are so grateful to everyone who shared their stories, making it so clear how much this policy change is needed. This is an investment in the health of our communities that is expected to yield $21.6 million in economic impact each year.”

Strengthening Maine’s Infrastructure & Partnerships with Municipalities:

“Maine city and town leaders commend and thank Governor Mills for the property tax relief measures contained in her supplemental biennial budget proposal,” said James Gardner, President, Maine Municipal Association and Town Manager of Easton. “Getting the State’s share of general purpose aid for K-12 education to 55 percent and increasing revenue sharing to municipalities from 3.75 percent to 5 percent solidifies the state-municipal partnership and provides needed help to Maine property taxpayers.”

“This funding is critical to identify areas in the State with high PFAS concentrations in well water, to provide safe alternative water supplies, and to provide quick solutions to prevent PFAS-contaminated wastes from impacting drinking water supplies,” said Melanie Loyzim, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “Safe drinking water is a basic human need. We will not leave citizens at risk when we can take action now.”

“The proposed funding to address PFAS contamination is a vital step forward in providing resources that protect public health while recognizing that these forever chemicals have the potential to put farms out of business,” said Amanda Beal, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

“This funding gives both DEP and DACF the necessary resources to assist those impacted by the presence of PFAS chemicals in Maine soils and waters,” said Julie-Marie Bickford, Executive Director of the Maine Dairy Association and President of the Agricultural Council of Maine.  “MDIA is very appreciative that Governor Mills has recognized the additional financial hardships involved in the testing and clean-up stages for Maine farms whose businesses and livelihoods have been impacted along with the health of farm workers, family members, and animals who live in these contaminated environments.  Maine farmers want to continue our legacy of being stewards of Maine’s natural resources and resume production of healthy local food for our neighbors.”

“We are pleased to see funding designated for PFAS cleanup and remediation, particularly as it relates to helping farmers and other impacted communities who have been bearing the brunt of the PFAS contamination cost,” said Sarah Woodbury, Advocacy Director for Defend Our Health. “We thank Governor Mills and her administration for leading on this important issue.”

“We applaud the initiatives in the ‘Change Package’ that will allocate resources to farmers struggling to rid their land of toxic PFAS chemicals, revitalize fish and wildlife habitat in critical waterways, and provide Maine communities with the added support they need to prepare for the impacts of climate change,” said Kathleen Meil, Director of Policy & Partnerships for Maine Conservation Voters “These commitments demonstrate that Governor Mills understands what every corner of Maine needs in order to protect our people, wildlife, environment, and climate future.”

“Facing the threat of climate change requires smart investments in our communities,” said Kate Dempsey, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “Governor Mills’ budget proposal invests in resilient road-stream crossings that connect fish and wildlife habitat and improve public safety, and provides critical climate planning support for towns. Together with the Governor’s Land for Maine’s Future bond proposal, this represents a forward-thinking, climate-ready approach that Mainers can be proud of.”

“The Maine Municipal Association enthusiastically endorses Governor Mills’ budget proposal of $5.5 million to support municipalities with grants and state staffing for climate projects for resilience planning, incentives for local clean energy and housing policies,” said Stephen Gove, Executive Director of the Maine Municipal Association. “MMA looks forward to state-municipal partnership projects in these critical areas and welcomes the assistance to communities.”

“The past year has shown just how much the Maine National Guard can do for our neighbors here at home, in addition to training and responding to our federal mission,” said Major General Doug Farnham, Commissioner of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management and Maine’s Adjutant General. “These proposed funds, combined with the matching Federal resources, will go a long way towards ensuring that we have the best possible facilities with which to train and equip our units across the state. These funds will enable a much more rapid improvement to our facilities than if we were to rely solely on the projected annual budget.”