YEAR ONE: Expanding Health Care, Strengthening the Economy & Protecting the Environment - First Year of Governor Mills’ Administration Forges Progress for Maine

During the first year of Governor Janet Mills’ Administration, more than 56,000 people gained access to critical health care, the State unveiled its first strategic economic development plan in more than two decades, and Maine led in embracing clean, renewable energy to grow the economy, protect the environment and fight climate change.

With the end of her first year in office drawing to a close, Governor Mills released the following statement:

“Campaigning across the state in 2018, I met countless people worried that they would never be able to afford high-quality health care. I met parents worried they may lose their child to the scourge of addiction. I met small business owners worried they may have to shut their doors because they can’t find workers. I met students worried about their future because of the threat of climate change.

“I heard them and vowed to chart a new, better direction for our state. In this last year, I believe we accomplished that, setting Maine on a course to grow and prosper by investing in Maine people.  

“Thanks to Medicaid expansion, more than 56,000 people across the state accessed life-saving health care coverage. We made Maine an age-friendly state and passed legislation to tackle the high cost of prescription drugs. We invested in K-12 and adult education and created a long-term strategy to diversify and strengthen our economy. We took significant and immediate steps to combat the opioid epidemic and protect the health and welfare of our children. We embraced clean, renewable energy to strengthen our economy, protect the environment, and fight climate change.

“Undoubtedly there is more work to do, but I am proud of these accomplishments and am grateful for the work of our talented department commissioners, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and the dedicated employees across state government who are helping advance these changes.

“I believe that Maine has a bright future and unmatched potential. Our state stands ready to welcome people home with open arms and opportunity for all, and my Administration will continue to work to ensure that Maine is a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

“Most of all, I am grateful to the people of Maine. Your grit, determination, and hopefulness inspire me every day, and I am honored you have allowed me the privilege to serve as your Governor. I look forward to continuing to work on your behalf in the coming new year.”

Governor Janet Mills’ first full day in office was January 3, 2019. In her first year in office, her Administration has achieved significant progress in ensuring Maine people have access to affordable health care, in protecting Maine’s environment and combating climate change, in investing in public education, and in strengthening the economy, among other achievements.

Expanding and Strengthening Health Care: Under Governor Mills, more than 56,000 Maine people accessed life-saving health care

  • Expanding Medicaid: Governor Mills signed an Executive Order on her first day in office directing her Administration to implement Medicaid expansion. As of December 23, 2019, more than 56,000 people cumulatively were covered through MaineCare expansion — 44,441 at a point in time on December 20, 2019. As of October 31, 2019, more than 16,000 expansion enrollees received mental health treatment; 6,500 received substance abuse disorder treatment; and 3,100 have been screened for breast or colorectal cancers. 
  • Enshrining Critical Health Care Protections In State Law: Governor Mills introduced and signed into law LD 1, An Act to Protect Health Care Coverage for Maine Families, which codifies in state law patient protections outlined in the Affordable Care Act. Among other provisions, this bill: 1) protects many of the 230,000 people in Maine with pre-existing conditions from being denied health care coverage; 2) prohibits charging seniors substantially higher rates due to age; 3) bans lifetime and annual caps on coverage; 4) allows young adults up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance; and 5) requires coverage of ten essential health benefits. 
  • Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs: Governor Mills signed a comprehensive prescription drug reform package into law in June to allow the wholesale importation of prescription medicine, to create a prescription drug affordability board, to increase drug price transparency and to better regulate pharmacy benefit managers. 
  • Strengthening Child Health and Welfare: The Mills Administration has revitalized the Public Health Nursing program, bringing total staff to 39. It has launched a Safe Sleep campaign, promoted perinatal care including securing $5 million for a Maternal Opioid Misuse initiative, and advanced childhood vaccine policy. The Department of Health and Human Services has also added more than 130 staff to the Office of Child and Family Services, including the addition of 33 child protective caseworkers. Governor Mills also protected the health of Maine children by signing into law a bill banning electronic smoking devices on school grounds and by authorizing an education and prevention campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of vaping. Governor Mills also banned the dangerous, discredited practice of conversion therapy targeting LGBTQ youth and prohibited transgender exclusions in MaineCare and health insurance plans.
  • Recertifying Riverview Psychiatric Facility: Following years of work by state employees, the federal government recertified Riverview Psychiatric Center, resuming federal Medicaid reimbursement. The Mills Administration also paid off the state’s millions of dollars of debt and $2 million in interest payments to the federal government for Riverview’s operations accrued under the previous administration. 

Growing Maine’s Economy: Under Governor Mills, Maine’s economy continued to grow along with the national economy and the Administration is working to diversify the economy and strengthen the workforce

  • Maintaining Record-Low Unemployment and Creating Jobs: Over the last year, the number of unemployed people in Maine has decreased by 5,000 people to 19,400 people total. Maine’s unemployment rate has been below 4 percent for 47 consecutive months. The number of nonfarm payroll jobs increased by 5,200 from one year ago and the number of private sector jobs is up 5,300 over the year with the largest gain in the leisure, hospitality, retail, manufacturing and construction sectors. The share of jobs in government is the lowest on record.
  • Saving Money for a Rainy Day: In Governor Mills’ biennial budget change package, she proposed that the Legislature appropriate $20 million to the Budget Stabilization Fund. The Legislature ultimately dedicated $5.3 million which, when combined with the $18.1 million the Mills’ Administration added through the statutorily established “cascade” at the end of FY19, amounts to $23.4 million saved in the Budget Stabilization Fund since Governor Mills took office. With the final transfers made by the Mills’ Administration, the balance in the Budget Stabilization Fund is $236.9 million, which represents 6.6 percent of total General Fund revenues. In all, the State carried financial reserves totaling $341.6 million into the new fiscal year.
  • Spearheading Statewide Economic Development Strategy: Under Governor Mills, the Department of Economic and Community Development has created the first statewide economic development strategy in more than two decades that aims to strengthen and diversify Maine’s economy.  Governor Mills ordered the creation of the non-partisan plan in March, and in the subsequent months Commissioner Johnson gathered input from more than 1,300 Maine people from every corner of the state. The plan has the support of the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System, the Maine Development Foundation, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Venture Fund, Coastal Enterprises, Inc (CEI), the Maine Technology Institute, FocusMaine, and the Finance Authority of Maine, among others.
  • Investing in adult education: Governor Mills signed the State’s two-year biennial budget which includes $900,000 for adult education, $3 million for adult degree completion and $2 million for early college; a nearly 3.3 percent increase for higher education and training programs to help keep tuition fees down; and an additional $3 million for the Maine State Grant program.
  • Investing in Broadband Expansion: Governor Mills signed the State’s two-year biennial budget which allocates $4 million to fund Department of Economic Development initiatives including broadband and rural development grants. 

Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: Under Governor Mills, Maine finally took action against a crisis that has claimed hundreds of lives.

Among other changes, in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Cabinet has overseen: 

  • The distribution of 12,000 doses of naloxone, with 50 known successful overdose reversals; the training of 200 new additional recovery coaches; the creation of nine new recovery community centers with three additional in progress; and the implementation of medication-assisted treatment in 8 jails with five additional in progress.
  • Improving the Opioid Health Home Model: The Department of Health and Human Services has revised and finalized a rule to improve the Opioid Health Home Model, expanding access to critical addiction services.
  • Lifting the Cap on Medication Assisted Treatment: Through the supplemental budget, the Mills Administration lifted the two-year cap on medication assisted treatment for those fighting substance use disorder.
  • Equipping Marine Patrol and Game Wardens with Naloxone: Under the Mills Administration, the Bureau of Marine Patrol has issued Narcan to all Marine Patrol Officers and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has issued Narcan and training to all game Wardens and Warden Service Field Staff.

Supporting Maine Seniors: Under Governor Mills, Maine restored the Low-Cost Drugs for the Elderly and Disabled Program to cover an additional 1,800 Maine seniors. 

  • Releasing the Senior Housing Bond: On January 15, 2019, Governor Mills signed a financial order to begin the release of $15 million in affordable housing bonds for Maine seniors. The housing bond, approved by almost 70 percent of Maine voters in a statewide referendum, will fund construction of more than 200 new affordable housing units for low-income seniors and the weatherization of another 100 existing homes for low-income seniors. The bond will also trigger more than $22.5 million in matching federal funds.
  • Becoming “Age-Friendly”: The State of Maine earned the designation of an Age-Friendly State, a move hailed by AARP as a major step toward making Maine more livable for people of every age. With this designation, Maine now has access to critical data, technical advice, best practices and organizing tools to help the State plan for the future in a thoughtful way and learn from a global network of partners to better serve older Mainers.
  • Combating Elder Abuse: Governor Mills signed an Executive Order establishing the Elder Justice Partnership to combat elder abuse in Maine. Earlier this year, Governor Mills also signed into law LD 566, An Act to Protect Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation, which requires certain professionals who suspect financial exploitation to report those concerns to Adult Protective Services and the Office of Securities.
  • Making Prescription Drugs More Affordable for Seniors: Governor Mills restored the Maine Low-Cost Drugs for the Elderly and Disabled Program to cover an additional 1,800 Maine seniors.

Protecting Maine’s Environment, Advancing Clean Energy & Combating Climate Change: Under Governor Mills, Maine took immediate action to fight climate change and embrace renewable energy opportunities.

  • Joining the U.S. Climate Alliance: Under Governor Mills, Maine joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, making it the 22nd of now 25 states to join the effort to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Accord.
  • Committing to Carbon Neutrality by 2045: Standing before the United Nations General Assembly, Governor Mills challenged world leaders to take action against climate change and announced that she signed an Executive Order committing Maine to carbon neutrality by 2045. In doing so, she became the only sitting Maine Governor to speak before the international body.
  • Establishing the Maine Climate Council: Governor Mills introduced and signed into law bipartisan legislation to establish the Maine Climate Council, which is charged with developing an action plan and a timetable to meet our emission reduction goals and to ensure that Maine’s communities and economy are resilient to the effects of climate change. 
  • Leading by Example: Governor Mills signed an Executive Order directing state government agencies to lead by example in pursuing energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability measures, all of which are expected to reduce operational costs and reduce state government’s carbon emissions.
  • Advancing Renewable Energy: Governor Mills signed into law one of the nation’s most ambitious renewable energy requirements, increasing Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard  from 40 percent today to 80 percent by 2030 and a goal of 100 renewable energy by 2050
  • Encouraging the Growth of Solar Power: Governor Mills signed into law LD 91, An Act to Eliminate Gross Metering, to reset Maine’s metering policy for solar and L.D. 1711, An Act To Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine, to create new incentives for solar developmentand distributed generation projects across the state.
  • Promoting Heat Pumps: Governor Mills launched an initiative to support the installation of 100,000 new heat pumps by 2025, a technology that can reduce the use of fossil fuels and save Maine people money on their heating bills. By working with Maine Housing, the Administration will ensure that the use of these technologies will be accessible to lower-income Mainers and seniors.
  • Ending Blanket Ban on Wind Power: Governor Mills signed an Executive Order to end a moratorium on wind turbine permits, allowing state agencies to once again do their work with Maine’s local communities and stakeholders to determine which projects should go forward.
  • Advancing Offshore Wind: Governor Mills signed legislation directing the approval of the contract for Maine Aqua Ventus which is now poised to be the country’s first floating offshore wind demonstration project and has joined New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force to examine opportunities for the growth of offshore wind in federal waters.
  • Opposing Offshore Drilling: Governor Mills withdrew the State of Maine from the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition (OCSGC), a group that supports offshore oil and gas drilling, saying its “work promoting the expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling is incompatible with Maine’s interests.”
  • Expanding Access to Electric Vehicles & Building Out EV Infrastructure: Governor Mills and Efficiency Maine Trust announced a set of initiatives to expand the use of electric vehicles across Maine in an effort to reduce the state’s carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels. The initiatives, which include the creation of financial incentives to purchase electric vehicles and the installation of at least 50 public vehicle charging stations, are in part the result of a $5.1 million settlement won last year by then-Attorney General Mills against Volkswagen.
  • Supporting Maine’s Transition to a Sustainable Economy: Governor Mills signed LD 289, An Act To Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers, LD 1532, An Act To Eliminate Single-use Plastic Carry-out Bags, and LD 1282, An Act To Establish a Green New Deal for Maine.
  • Calling on Congress to Act: Governor Mills submitted written testimony to the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis calling on the federal government to help smaller, rural states like Maine combat climate change.
  • Restoring Our Arctic partnerships: In an address before the Arctic Circle Assembly, Governor Mills reaffirmed Maine’s partnership with Arctic nations and pledged Maine’s help in combating climate change, strengthening trade relationships, and exchanging cutting-edge research to diversify and expand Maine’s economy.
  • Protecting Against PFAS: In response to reports nationwide regarding the prevalence of potentially harmful chemical substances known as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), Governor Mills signed an Executive Order creating a Governor’s Task Force to mobilize state agencies and other stakeholders to review the prevalence of PFAS in Maine and put forward a plan to address it.The Department of Environmental Protection has also issued a requirement for all generators of biosolids to test for PFAS before those materials can be spread on land.

Investing In Public Education: Under Governor Mills, Maine has invested in teachers and worked to expand educational opportunity to Maine students regardless of zip code.

  • Investing in pre-K through 12 Education: Governor Mills signed the State’s biennial budget into law which raises the state share of education funding to nearly 51 percent, which includes $115 million in new state support for local education, a step closer to achieving the 55 percent mandated under state law.
  • Raising Teachers’ Minimum Salary: Governor Mills signed the State’s biennial budget into law which paves the way for a $40,000 minimum teacher salary and initially reimburses towns at 100 percent to offset the cost on local budgets.
  • Expediting Teacher Certification: Under Governor Mills, the Maine Department of Education has reduced teacher certification application turnaround to three weeks, an all-time best and far ahead of the industry standard of around 12 weeks.
  • Feeding Hungry Kids: Governor Mills signed the State’s biennial budget into law which funds initiatives to feed more hungry school children. The program eliminates the reduced-price lunch category and includes those school children in the free-lunch category.
  • Rebuilding Relationships with Maine Schools: After years of inconsistent leadership, the Department of Education is rebuilding and redefining their role as an organization that will inspire and support Maine’s schools and communities in providing the very best education for our children and for our lifelong learners. The Department of Education initiated a “listening tour” with administrators and educators and continues to develop trust and positive relationships with Maine’s educational professionals as a result.
  • Reinstating the Children’s Cabinet: Governor Mills reinstated the Children’s Cabinet for the first time in years to put Maine children first. The Cabinet will mobilize state government to address challenges including gaps in affordable, quality child care and education, mental health and domestic violence that impact Maine children.

Rebuilding the State of Maine and Tribes’ Relationship: Governor Mills began to heal the divisions of the past and forge a new relationship built on mutual trust and respect.

  • Appointing Tribal Advisor: Governor Mills appointed Donna Loring, former Penobscot Tribal Council member, as Senior Advisor on Tribal Affairs to the Governor.
  • Prohibiting Native American Mascots: Governor Mills signed into law LD 944, An Act To Ban Native American Mascots in All Public Schools, which passed unanimously by the Legislature to prohibit Native American mascots in all Maine public schools.
  • Establishing Indigenous Peoples Day: Governor Mills signed LD 179, An Act to Replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, into law on April 26, 2019. Alabama,  Alaska, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin – in addition to more than 130 cities and towns – have also adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day or Native American Day.
  • Reinvigorating Maine Indian Tribal State Commission: Governor Mills nominated six people to the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission, empowering it to once again become a forum for substantive communication, problem solving, and dispute resolution.
  • Strengthening Water Quality Standards: Governor Mills signed into law LD 1775, An Act to Protect Sustenance Fishing. The legislation, which passed the Legislature with near unanimous support, establishes in Maine for the first time water quality standards designed to protect sustenance fishing in certain waters for Maine tribes.

Restoring Normalcy and Bipartisan Compromise in State Government: Under Governor Mills’ leadership, landmark bipartisan legislation was enacted into law this Legislative session. 

  • Confirming a Cabinet: Governor Mills nominated 15 well-respected, qualified, and experienced public servants, all confirmed within the first six weeks of her Administration. Governor Mills’ cabinet includes eight women — the most gender diverse in history — three distinguished veterans, and three commissioners from the previous administration.
  • Passing a Biennial Budget: Governor Mills signed a balanced, bipartisan budget that expands access to health care, improves Maine’s education system, increases revenue sharing, delivers property tax relief, and puts money into the Rainy Day Fund. 
  • Establishing Paid Leave: Governor Mills signed LD 369, An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave, the most progressive earned paid leave — not just sick leave — legislation in the nation, supported by businesses, employees, advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
  • Helping Families Escape Poverty: Governor Mills signed LD 1774, "An Act To Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments so Families Can Thrive" (LIFT) and LD 1772, "An Act To Secure Transitions to Economic Prosperity for Maine Families and Children" (STEP) to help families in poverty meet their basic needs and ensure economic opportunities are accessible once those families are stabilized and able to take advantage of them. The bills passed the Legislature unanimously.
  • Enhancing Public Safety: The Mills Administration led the effort this year to draft and pass LD 1811, An Act To Enhance Personal and Public Safety by Requiring Evaluations of and Judicial Hearings for Persons in Protective Custody Regarding Risk of Harm and Restricting Access to Dangerous Weapons. This new law will protect individuals against gun violence while preserving the due process rights of persons with mental illness. The bill was supported by members of both political parties, receiving a unanimous vote in the State Senate and a near unanimous vote in the Maine House. 
  • Protecting Maine Workers: Governor Mills signed into law a package of worker’s compensation reforms that provide additional protections for injured workers while ensuring predictable costs for employers. Governor Mills worked with lawmakers, business and labor to craft one bipartisan bill that resulted in the first significant changes in Maine’s worker’s compensation laws in over 25 years. The Mills Administration also negotiated seven collective bargaining agreements with Maine state employees; these contracts included cost-of-living raises, a new parental leave benefit and a long overdue wage study. Other significant changes include a clarification of prevailing wage law, stronger penalties for repeated incidents of wage theft, and collective bargaining rights for loggers.