WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: Maine Leaders Praise Governor Mills Balanced Budget Proposals for Supporting Maine People During COVID-19 Pandemic

January 8, 2021

Today, Governor Janet Mills unveiled her Fiscal Year 2021 supplemental budget proposal and Fiscal Year 2022-2022 biennial budget proposal. Lawmakers, leaders, advocates, and other issued-based experts are praising the proposals for covering pandemic-created budget shortfalls while maintaining critical services that support Maine people:

Here’s what they are saying:

“All across the state, Mainers are looking to their government to help guide them through the pandemic and rebuild our economy. The next budget is key to our success,” said in part Senate President Troy Jackson. “Mainers are counting on us to continue our work to lower health care costs, provide property tax relief, expand access to high-speed, reliable internet, and grow our economy. These priorities are more important than ever before, and our budget should reflect that through responsible spending and saving measures.”

“Governor Mills’ budget demonstrates her clear commitment to making progress for Maine families, while working to ensure our state’s economic recovery amidst the ongoing pandemic,” said Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau. “I look forward to carefully reviewing the details of this budget knowing that House Democrats and I will remain focused on increasing access to health care, ensuring our schools are adequately funded, making smart investments in broadband infrastructure and lowering property taxes. Mainers are facing enormous challenges and there is no doubt the work ahead of us is difficult, but I’m confident we’ll pass a commonsense proposal that meets the needs of Mainers across the state.”

“As Senate Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, I know there is no more important job than making sure we appropriate taxpayers’ hard-earned money in a prudent, respectful, bipartisan way. Now that we have the Governor’s budget proposal, I look forward to diving into the details through a transparent and open process, giving every legislator and every Mainer the opportunity to weigh in,” said Senator Cathy Breen, Senate Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “This year will be a challenging one, but I am ready to get to work with the Governor and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to produce a budget that will pay our bills, invest in our future, protect our natural resources, and safeguard essential services like public education and health care.”

“The Appropriations Committee will begin the hard work of crafting a budget that reflects the shared values of Maine people and I thank Governor Mills for delivering a thoughtful proposal that provides an excellent starting point for our work ahead,” said Representative Teresa Pierce, House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “Our committee will dig into the details, listen to public testimony and spend many hours focusing on how we can improve the lives of Maine families and create more opportunities to bolster our economy. I look forward to the conversations and the hard work ahead of us.”

“In the middle of a public health crisis and economic downturn, Governor Mills has put together an impressive and responsible budget. As someone who has served as Governor during difficult economic times, I know how challenging it can be to face the specter of reduced revenues, which can result in cuts that impact Maine people,” said former Governor John E. Baldacci. “Governor Mills has met her Constitutional responsibility to produce a balanced budget, and she has focused investments in education, public health, and economic development – all while saving a historic amount of money and not raising taxes. You can’t really ask for more.”

“COVID has exposed and exacerbated inequality in Maine’s economy: While wealthier households withstood the pandemic recession and even prospered during the crisis, many Mainers — particularly women and people of color — are facing hardship in the form of unemployment, hunger and housing insecurity,” said in part Garrett Martin, Executive Director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy. "For an equitable recovery, it’s critical that state spending keep pace with Mainers’ needs. In times of crisis, Mainers cannot afford austerity. By protecting jobs and core government services, Gov. Mills' budget proposal would prevent additional layoffs and avoid increased hardship. It is a strong foundation upon which lawmakers can build.”

“With tens of thousands of Mainers having lost their jobs last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mainers are counting on state services being there for them now more than ever. The proposed state budget presented today by the Mills administration avoids large-scale service cuts despite decreased revenue projections. We appreciate the work of Governor Mills and the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services to make sure Mainers will continue having access to essential services in 2021 and beyond,” said in part Dean Staffieri, President of the Maine Service Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989.

“AFSCME Council 93 commends Governor Janet Mills for crafting a budget plan that does not attempt to place the burden of the state’s fiscal challenges on the backs of dedicated and hard-working public employees. Given that our members working in state corrections and mental health have bravely continued working on the frontlines throughout the pandemic, we appreciate that the governor’s budget does not call for layoffs or furloughs of state employees. In addition, by maintaining current funding levels for municipalities, the governor has provided some measure of security for the hundreds of AFSCME members who continue to serve in vital, essential services in our cities and towns,” said Mark Bernard, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 93. “Moving forward, AFSCME Council 93 looks forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature on the budget priorities that affect our members. We also look forward to continuing to work with Governor Mills, Senate President Troy Jackson, House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, and municipal leaders in our ongoing efforts to secure substantive, direct federal aid to states and municipalities to offset the deep revenue losses resulting from the pandemic.”

“We extend to Governor Mills our sincere appreciation for constructing a budget that supports the mission of the Maine State Troopers Association,” said Sergeant Tom Pappas, President of the Maine State Troopers Association. “In these unprecedented times it is heartening to know that she recognizes and appreciates the difficult work our members and all Maine law enforcement do.”

Supporting Education: On preserving funding for Higher Education and investing $45 million in K-12 public education, which, if approved, will increase the General Purpose Aid from 51.78 to 51.83 percent, the highest level of state funding for education ever:

“On behalf of the tens of thousands of Mainers who rely on the stability of our universities, I want to thank Governor Mills for preserving the state appropriation that supports Maine’s public universities, which will protect the pathway to prosperity for our students and the state,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Malloy. “The pandemic has been financially devastating to our universities, just as it has been to State budgets. Sustained State appropriation for the University of Maine System is essential to our ability to keep the people of Maine on track for the future through affordable, high-quality postsecondary education and skill development. We look forward to working with the Governor and our partners in the Legislature in the months ahead to ensure Maine’s investment in its public universities directly contributes to the state’s health and economic well-being.”

“The budget presented by Governor Mills continues to recognize the critical role that educators and public education play in Maine’s future,” said Grace Leavitt, President of Maine Education Association. “The commitment to a well-supported education system is critical for the infrastructure of our state, and the value our educators provide has never been more apparent than now.”

“We want to thank the Governor and the Commissioner of Education for their ongoing efforts to support public education during the pandemic and in the long term,” said Steve Bailey, Executive Director of Maine School Boards Association. “This budget is an investment in our future. Coupled with the support we are getting from our Senators and Representatives in Washington to deal with COVID-related expenses, it also will help stabilize mill rates for our local taxpayers.”

“In a year when we anticipated cuts and curtailments, the Mills Administration has prioritized education funding to stabilize school budgets,” said Eileen King, Executive Director of Maine School Superintendents Association. “Her Administration has recognized that a strong education system is a cornerstone for a robust Maine future. The Governor’s support, along with the aid being provided by Congress in the federal COVID relief bills, will allow school districts to continue to address the many challenges they have faced during this pandemic while putting the needs of their students first.”

“The Governor’s budget reflects a continued commitment to the programs offered in Maine schools from pre-k to career,” said Dr. Holly Couturier, Executive Director of the Professional Division of Maine Principals Association. “The funding proposed will help schools to maintain the staffing levels that will be critical for the continued effort to mitigate impacts of COVID-19 and to move our schools and students forward successfully.”

“In a year in which technology has become a primary means by which education is being delivered, the Governor’s budget provides robust financial support for the next iteration of the MLTI project, which will support further integration, an emphasis on computer science, and the skills and technology resources our students and teachers will need for their success,” said Jeff Letourneau, Executive Director of NetworkMaine. “We would urge the Legislature, like the Governor, to recognize the importance of the MLTI project in preparing our students for the global economy.”

Expanding Broadband: The Governor’s proposal includes $1.8 million to facilitate the expansion of broadband into areas with inadequate service:

"The pandemic has shown us how important broadband is for our economic health as a state and as we look forward to our economic recovery, broadband expansion will play a vital role,” said Dana Connors, President, Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “An important step in most efficiently expanding broadband is mapping and the technical assistance to support it and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce applauds Governor Mills for including this key element to broadband expansion in her budget.”

"We applaud Governor Janet Mills in recognizing the importance of addressing Maine’s broadband challenges through the allocation of $1.8 million to support broadband expansion,” said Rob Snyder, President of Island Institute. “This investment in mapping and technical support will help us better understand opportunities for utilizing existing infrastructure, other funding sources, and community interest to ensure that we can quickly and effectively expand broadband throughout our state. We look forward to working with the Legislature to make sure that the State is investing in the necessary tools and capacity to leverage funding and resources and help provide all Mainers with access to better internet.”

“Now, more than ever, Maine families and businesses need access to reliable, affordable high speed internet,” said Lori Parham, State Director for AARP Maine. “We must invest in mapping and technical support in order to best understand the infrastructure needs, which will ensure we can expand access quickly. We cannot afford to wait any longer.”

“The Governor’s proposed $1.8 million supplementary broadband budget will address up-to-date mapping and technical support,” said Charlie Woodworth, Executive Director of the Greater Franklin Development Council. “The resulting real-time data and support will be vital to ensuring that the federal, state and local investment in our shovel ready multi-town projects will be optimized providing connectivity where needed and avoid overbuilding of infrastructure.”

Bolstering Municipalities: The Governor’s budget holds steady the previous increase of 3.75 percent in Municipal Revenue Sharing, among other initiatives:

“Taking into consideration the challenges facing state and local governments, the Maine Municipal Association greatly appreciates the level of funding for important municipal programs in Governor Mills' proposed FY 22-FY 23 General Fund budget. Her commitment to advancing the state's goal to fund 55% of the cost of K-12 education, stable funding for the revenue sharing program and ongoing commitment to the Homestead Exemption program underscores the importance and improving nature of the state/municipal partnership,” said James Gardner, Jr., Maine Municipal Association President and Town Manager, Easton.

Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: On the $2 million for the OPTIONS Initiative to dispatch mobile response teams in every Maine county to communities with high rates of drug overdoses:

"The OPTIONS initiative will put behavioral health specialists in our communities to provide outreach to Mainers most at risk of an overdose. These individuals will be offered a pathway to treatment and recovery, but also to harm reduction services if they are not ready for treatment," said Catherine Ryder, CEO of Tri-County Mental Health, which serves Androscoggin, Franklin, northern Cumberland and Oxford counties. "The continued support from the Mills Administration, our relationship with law enforcement and first responders, and our 70-year presence in our communities will pave the way for this initiatives' success."

"The OPTIONS initiative from the Mills Administration offers added resources to increase outreach and services to people at most risk of a fatal overdose, and to partner with first responders and law enforcement to seek to make a difference," said Lorraine Chamberlain, Program Director for Behavioral Health and Integration at Aroostook County Mental Health Center, which also serves Hancock and Washington counties. "The increase in fatal overdoses over the last year has been heart-breaking. OPTIONS is an essential program if we are serious about keeping people alive."

Fulfilling Promise on Downeast Correctional Facility:

“By pursing this critical funding for the Downeast Correctional Facility, Governor Mills has kept her promise to the people of the region. We are overjoyed by her commitment on this issue,” said Senator Marianne Moore (R-Washington County) and Representative Will Tuell (R-East Machias).