Appropriations Committee reaches strong, bipartisan budget agreement
AUGUSTA – The Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee reached a bipartisan budget agreement in a Committee vote on Wednesday. The vote was 11-1-1 in favor of a $7.98 billion two-year budget that prioritizes property tax relief, health care, workforce development, education, and climate change.
Chairs of the AFA Committee, Senator Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, and Representative Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, each released statements applauding the budget and the process by which an agreement was reached.
“Mainers have charged us with crafting a strong, responsible and bipartisan budget that meets the most pressing needs of this state, while both staying within our means and setting aside savings for the future,” said Senator Breen. “With this budget, the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee has delivered. We’ve secured strong bipartisan support on a budget that prioritizes property tax relief of $75 million and makes significant investments in health care, education and our workforce. I’m grateful that my colleagues and I on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee could restore the longstanding tradition of bipartisanship to the budget process.”
“The budget that the Appropriations Committee agreed to is sustainable, responsible, and most importantly, addresses the needs of Mainers that have gone unmet for far too long,” said Representative Gattine. “The Governor’s proposal provided a roadmap that the Committee used to craft a bipartisan plan allowing us to follow through on promises we’ve made to the people of our State. I am particularly pleased that the Committee was able to work together collaboratively to provide additional property tax relief and support for our local towns and schools. I’m more than confident that the budget we’ve produced will earn the support of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in the Legislature.”
The budget will now go before the full Legislature for consideration. It must secure a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate before going to Governor Janet Mills’ desk for her signature.
FY 2020-2012 Biennial Budget Highlights:
Total spending: $7.98 billion from the General Fund over the next two years. The proposal also adds $18 million to the Budget Stabilization Fund.
Property Tax Relief: The budget allocates an additional $75 million in property tax relief for hardworking Mainers, seniors, families, and small businesses on top of the governor’s proposal.
- The budget increases the Homestead Exemption by $5,000 to allow so Maine residents can exempt $25,000 from their property taxes.
- The budget expands eligibility for the Property Tax Fairness Credit to include an additional 13,000 more Mainers can get property tax relief.
- The budget increases revenue sharing from 2.5 percent to 3 percent next year, and almost 4 percent in the following year.
Health Care: Making health care more affordable and more accessible
- The budget fulfills promises to Maine people by sustainably funding MaineCare expansion. The budget allocates $125 million to be matched with nearly $700 million in federal funds for MaineCare Expansion.
- The budget allocates $5 million to support domestic violence and sexual assault services.
- The budget restores the low-cost drugs from Maine’s elderly program to cover an additional 800 Maine seniors.
- The budget adds 62 new Child Protection Workers to better protect Maine children from child abuse and provide relief to caseworkers with unmanageable caseloads.
- The budget funds $3 million for Child Development Services, which provides early intervention for young children.
- The budget supports efforts to combat the opioid crisis by funding prevention efforts and eliminating red tape that prevents people from getting help. This includes $5.5 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine (FHM) to support prevention efforts, increases to the weekly rate for medication-assisted treatment and elimination of the 24-month limit for medication-assisted treatment.
- The budget also allocates an additional $5 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine for smoking prevention and cessation.
Investing in Maine workers, young adults and children
Workforce Training and higher-education
- The budget includes $600,000 for adult education, $2 million for adult degree completion and $3 million for early college.
- The budget provides for a 3 percent increase for higher education and training programs – the Maine Community College System, the University of Maine System and Maine Maritime Academy – to help keep tuition fees down.
- The budget continues ongoing workforce training funding for the Maine Community College System to help fill critical gaps in the workforce.
- The budget allocates an additional $3 million for the Maine State Grant program.
K-12 public education
- The budget raises state share of education funding to just over 50 percent, which includes $111 million in new state support for local education.
- The budget paves the way for a $40,000 minimum teacher salary and reimburses towns at 100 percent to offset the cost on local budgets.
- The budget allocates $18 million in the School Revolving Loan Fund, which provides critical funding to repair crumbling school infrastructure.
- The budget funds initiative to feed more hungry school children. The program eliminates the reduced price lunch category and includes those school children in the free-lunch category.
Looking to the future: Infrastructure, energy, climate, and planning
- Broadband: The budget allocates $4 million to fund Department of Economic Development initiatives including broadband and rural development grants.
- Renewable energy: The budget supports a ten-year plan to triple in-state renewable energy generation sufficient to fully offset energy use in all sectors: electricity, heating, and transportation.
- Climate Council: The budget funds a comprehensive planning group charged with establishing policy initiatives and benchmarks to meet 30-year goals for climate emissions reductions.
- Office of Innovation and the Future: Provides $735,000 in funding for revitalized state planning integrated across state agencies.
- The budget also makes a significant investment in capital in the Marine Resources Department.