What They’re Saying: Leaders Praise Governor Mills’ Biennial Budget Proposal

Leaders, advocates, and experts from across Maine are praising the Governor’s new biennial budget proposal.

The proposal, unveiled by the Governor yesterday, builds on the significant progress achieved under her last budget by continuing her free community college initiative for another two years, expanding pre-K, building more housing, and strengthening Maine’s health care system, including investing in behavioral health, services for older Mainers and people with disabilities, and child welfare. The proposal also makes an historic investment in infrastructure to unlock vast new sources of Federal funding to fix Maine’s multimodal transportation system.

The proposal is balanced, does not raise taxes, and leaves the Rainy Day Fund untouched at its record high of more than $900 million.

On Strengthening Education, from Child Care and Pre-K to Higher Ed:

“Governor Mills has made Maine’s public schools, students, and educators a top priority. She raised minimum teacher pay and covered those additional costs to support local communities. She is also the only Governor who fulfilled the State’s obligation to fund 55 percent of the cost of education,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “From supporting nutritious meals for all students to investing in innovative educational opportunities, this administration has made bold, historic investments in education and this budget builds on that extraordinary progress.”

“MEA is glad to see the continuation of the full 55% state funding for public schools in the Governor’s budget. The other supports for students and public education in the budget—universal school meals, support for higher education, increased accessibility of pre-K—are all important to the success of Maine’s students and demonstrate the Governor’s commitment to public education and educators,” said Grace Leavitt, President of Maine Education Association. 

“With this budget, Governor Mills continues to deliver on her promise to invest in our schools, educators, and students. Maine’s superintendents welcome the Governor’s efforts to ensure the state continues to meet its obligation to pay 55 percent of education funding and provide universal meals to our students,” said Eileen King, Executive Director of Maine School Superintendents Association. “This budget also makes critical investments in programs such as pre-k that will have both immediate and long-term benefits for our students and communities.”

“The Governor has been true to her word since she was elected in her support of public education, the teachers in the classroom, and the students we serve by proposing funding that includes maintaining the state’s obligation to fund public education at 55%, providing $58 million for universal free meals in public schools and approved private schools and expanding support for pre-kindergarten programs,” said Steven Bailey, Executive Director of Maine School Boards Association.

“Educate Maine once again applauds Governor Mills for her focus on strengthening education in our state, at all levels, and building pathways between strong schools and a vibrant Maine workforce. The sustained commitment to maintaining 55% state education funding, universal free meals for students, and salary supplements for child care workers are essential to the success of our learners,” said Dr. Jason Judd, Executive Director of Educate Maine. “Strong investments in higher education are necessary for Maine to meet our education attainment goal of 60% by 2025 in order to meet the needs of our economy. Free community college, much needed additional funding for public higher education, and the increase in the Maine State Grant Program make a bold statement that Maine is serious about providing opportunities for people to reach their highest academic and economic potential. We should be proud that, as a state, we are focusing our resources to ensure more equitable and inclusive outcomes for communities across Maine.”

“Investing in the educators who provide care and education for Maine's youngest children is foundational to building a strong early childhood education system," said Tara Williams, Executive Director of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. "We thank Governor Mills for her commitment to continue to fund educator salary supplements and invest in this crucial workforce behind the workforce.”

“We are pleased that the Governor’s budget continues to highlight the importance of investing in systems and services that support the well-being of Maine children and families,” said Stephanie Eglinton, Executive Director of the Maine Children’s Alliance. “Wage supplements for early educators, expanded public pre-school, maintaining the state’s share of public school funding, and universal free school meals help ensure that young children have a strong foundation for learning and healthy development. For families challenged with behavioral health needs or substance use disorder, ensuring supportive services are available and accessible is critical to child safety and family well-being.”

“The affordable, high-quality postsecondary education and workforce training provided by Maine's public universities is the most effective path to social mobility for Mainers and economic prosperity for our state,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “In direct response to the needs of Maine’s people and employers, the 130th Legislature and Gov. Mills made historic investments in public education, especially from pre-kindergarten to community college. I applaud Gov. Mills for the measured budget she released today that builds on those investments and further strengthens pathways to college and great-paying Maine careers. If supported by the Legislature, these additional appropriations will enable UMS to sustain our universities where they are while making strategic investments for the future, meet our obligations to fairly compensate our world-class faculty and staff, and maintain Maine’s national leadership in access and affordability while improving student enrollment and success.”

“Small businesses account for more than 99% of private enterprise in the state and employ more than half of all working Mainers. Many lack their own research and development capacity and, thus, uniquely rely on the expertise and facilities of our public universities to develop the talent, technology, and new and improved products and processes they need to be competitive in an increasingly global marketplace,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, who serves as president of the University of Maine and the vice chancellor for research and innovation for the University of Maine System. “Consistent with long-standing calls from the private sector to increase Maine’s economic competitiveness by boldly increasing public investment in public university R&D, the additional appropriations for MEIF proposed by Gov. Mills will allow our universities to better prepare our graduates to be leaders and innovators in the Maine workforce for today and tomorrow, and help Maine companies grow and create more Maine jobs, all while sustaining the state’s abundant natural resources and special quality of life.”

“We’re very grateful Governor Mills supports funding the Free College scholarship at Maine’s community colleges for another two years. Free community college lets students start their lives off right, with a degree or certificate in hand that prepares them for good-paying jobs in dozens of Maine industries or transfer to a four-year college,” said Maine Community College System President David Daigler. “This is the sort of smart state investment in Maine’s young people that provides tremendous benefits to our local communities and the state’s economy.”

“On behalf of thousands of Maine Maritime Academy alumni and supporters throughout the state, we thank Governor Mills for a proposed budget that helps us build toward the future,” said Jerry Paul, President of Maine Maritime Academy. “Her step forward on critical budget needs allows us to continue our ranking as the ‘#1 College in America for Return on Investment for low income students’ as we provide a world-class education and position ourselves as a leader for maritime industry innovation and workforce development, contributing to Maine's place in a global economy.”

Improving the Health of Maine People:

“The Governor’s budget targets the ongoing effects of the pandemic on Maine people while envisioning a healthier future in the recovery from COVID-19,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. “It continues to prioritize strengthening Maine’s behavioral health system, supports healthy aging in Maine communities, improves services for individuals with disabilities, strengthens child care and child welfare, and invests in public health now and into the future.”

“Maine Veterans’ Homes is grateful for the proposed support within Governor Janet Mills’ comprehensive biennial and supplemental budgets, providing significant support for Maine’s seniors,” said Sharon Fusco, CEO of Maine Veterans’ Homes. “The impact of these investments will strengthen Maine’s senior care infrastructure for years to come in communities throughout the state. We are encouraged by this commitment from the State as we continue to deliver award-winning, quality care to Maine’s Veterans.”

“I applaud Governor Mills, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Cabinet on Aging for their leadership in making community living safe and sustainable for older adults in Maine,” said Jaye L. Martin, Executive Director, Legal Services for the Elderly. “Governor Mills’ budget proposes a significant investment in healthy aging that will make Maine a safer place to grow old by implementing recommendations of the Elder Justice Roadmap, including increased funding for victim support services, civil legal services, and Adult Protective Services. These are all key components of the safety net for older people who experience elder abuse.”  

“We have a critical opportunity with this budget to not only stabilize the behavioral health system in Maine, but to expand access to more Mainers in desperate need of care,” says Jayne Van Bramer, President & CEO of Sweetser. “The administration is addressing waitlist and workforce issues together by ensuring our ability to retain and attract quality and compassionate talent. We appreciate the Governor’s and legislature’s continued commitment to behavioral health and know this investment is in line with our shared goal of every Mainer being able to obtain evidence-based treatment and recovery.”

“This unprecedented investment in behavioral health by the Mills Administration will help Spurwink to improve access to services for children, adults, and families throughout Maine by supporting our frontline workers and the delivery of services in our communities,” said Eric Meyer, President and CEO of Spurwink. We thank the Department of Health and Human Services for its strong collaboration with providers across the state that will ultimately expand capacity and strengthen Maine’s behavioral health system.”

“The Maine recovery and harm reduction community sends our thanks to Governor Mills for her proposed investments in MaineCare reimbursement, naloxone, and direct services to address substance use in our communities," said Courtney Gary-Allen, Organizing Director of the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project. “We look forward to continued conversations with the Mills Administration, the Legislature, and the Maine Recovery Council about the substantial investments needed to expand access to medically managed withdrawal, also known as detox, beds, in-patient rehab, harm reduction services, prevention services that center the voices of young people and sustainable funding for recovery community centers. Together, we can build a Maine where everyone has what they need to enter and sustain long-term recovery from substance use when they are ready. The proposals in Governor Mills’ budget are a great start!”

“We appreciate that the Governor has proposed financial relief to hospitals that are struggling in this unprecedented environment of high inflation and staffing shortages,” said Steve Michaud, President of the Maine Hospital Association. “We also applaud the Governor and the Department of Health and Human Services for proposing increases in hospital inpatient reimbursement rates that have not been adjusted in over a decade through MaineCare and in hospitals’ pandemic recovery.”

Building Maine’s Infrastructure, From Housing to Roads and Bridges and More:

“We are experiencing an unprecedented housing crisis that requires an urgent and substantial response. The $30 million appropriation included in Governor Mills’ budget proposal is just such a response,” said Rebecca Hatfield, President & CEO of Avesta Housing. “It will inject critically-needed funds into the fight to address the crisis and facilitate development of affordable housing in both rural and urban areas, broadening and maximizing the impact across the State. We wholeheartedly support this proposal, which demonstrates that the governor has made the need for safe, quality, affordable housing for everyone a top priority of her administration.”

“We're so pleased that the Governor's budget proposal includes funding for the Rural Rental Affordable Housing Program,” said Liza Fleming-Ives, Executive Director of Genesis Community Loan Fund. “As we work with rural communities across the state, we hear stories every day about people struggling to find housing. Many Maine communities are seeking to address that need by building more rural rental options, and this funding will go a long way toward making those efforts possible.”

“The Highway and General Fund budgets contain responsible fiscal measures that will allow continued investment in Maine’s vast multimodal transportation system over the next two years. Those measures include continued substantial General Fund support and Highway Fund provisions that will support the pursuit of federal grant funds under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said Bruce Van Note, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation. “These BIL funds will allow meaningful, targeted investments in highways and bridges, villages and downtowns, transit, ports, bike/pedestrian improvements, EV charging stations, resiliency, and other infrastructure projects with safety, economic, and quality of life benefits.”

“These past few years have 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.” 

Providing Property Tax Relief and Other Support for Municipalities:

“This budget proposal demonstrates Governor Mills’ support and respect for the municipal/state partnership,” said Catherine M. Conlow, Executive Director for the Maine Municipal Association.  “Funding for 55% of K-12 education, sharing 5% of state sales and income tax revenue with municipalities, and honoring the promises made in 2022 to fully reimburse municipalities for the senior stabilization program will enable local leaders to continue to provide vital government services without shifting additional burdens on property owners.”

Protecting Maine’s Environment:

“We in the town of Surry appreciate the Governor’s initiative, which creates a practical collaborative approach to adapt to climate change and ensure a healthier environment moving forward. We are grateful for the expertise to support communities that is already in place under the Governor’s Community Resilience Partnership, combining a community planning framework, technical assistance, and funds for towns,” said Chris Stark, Member, Surry Select Board and Surry Climate Action Workgroup. “This helps us identify where we might be at risk from extreme weather events and mitigate impacts from those that have already done harm such as flooding and compromising critical infrastructure in our town and across the state. This partnership also helps us reduce fossil fuel emissions by maximizing access to high-speed internet so that people can stay and work in the communities that they live in and love.”

“As Bethel begins to put into motion the projects that the Community Resilience Partnership award have afforded our municipality, we are heartened to see the Governor's decision to increase funding to allow communities across Maine to continue this impactful work,” said Meryl Kelly, Member, Board of Selectmen.