Maine Legislature reaches deal on bipartisan budget that supports workers, small businesses, veterans and direct care providers
The measure targets relief to more than 160,000 working-class Mainers and more than 28,000 Maine businesses that received funds through the Paycheck Protection Program
AUGUSTA – Early this morning, the Maine Legislature passed a bipartisan supplemental budget that supports Maine workers, thousands of Maine businesses, veterans and direct care providers with two-thirds support in both the House and Senate. The supplemental budget provides state income tax relief to all Maine businesses that received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program and exempts unemployment benefits from state income taxes for 160,000 Mainers. The final vote was 139-1 in the House and unanimous in the Senate.
Democrats rejected a proposal that included $32 million in tax cuts for wealthy corporations in favor of a budget that puts $8 million into the Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as the “Rainy Day Fund,” and studies the Federal Derived Intangible Income (FDII) deduction. The FDII is often characterized as a giveaway to large multinational corporations.
Presiding Officers and Chairs of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee released the following statements in support of the budget proposal.
Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash:
“Democrats were clear from the beginning, we were willing to work with Republicans to pass a compromise supplemental budget that works for Maine people and businesses. My colleagues and I were also clear that we would never get behind lavish tax breaks that only benefit wealthy, multinational corporations. And we held firm. Three-martini lunches and offshore tax havens do nothing for the hardworking people who lost their job due to no fault of their own and or the struggling small businesses on Main Street.
“As Democrats, we believe in being cautious with taxpayer dollars, which is why we would rather put money in the budget stabilization fund than spend taxpayer money on frivolous tax breaks for companies that Maine people and Maine businesses aren’t asking for and don’t benefit from. This supplemental budget is a win for everyone. It works for businesses, workers, direct care providers, and veterans. It’s a reminder of what is possible when we don’t retreat to our political corners, but instead, put Maine people at the heart of our agenda.”
House Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford:
“Today’s vote is a huge step forward for Mainers. After a year of uncertainty, the Legislature is now delivering some certainty for Maine people. We’ve passed a bipartisan supplemental budget with a great deal of tax relief for 28,000 businesses, the 250,000 Mainers they employ and over 160,000 Mainers who were out of work in 2020. These are businesses in our communities and businesses owned by people we know. These are people who have given blood, sweat and tears to survive the pandemic. This was a vote to stand with them. I couldn’t be more proud of how this compromise came together.”
Senator Cathy Breen of Falmouth:
“Over the past year, every one of us in this chamber has experienced and witnessed a scope of suffering – personal, economic and social – that none of us imagined last March. It’s been profoundly painful. Now, with the looming tax deadline around the corner, Maine workers and businesses are anxiously waiting for the Legislature to respond to the immediate needs of this crisis and put critical resources where our state needs them most. This supplemental budget proposal is something that every person in the Maine Legislature can get behind. It may have been a long thirty-six hours but I’m glad we could come together and get this done for Maine people. ”
Representative Teresa Pierce of Falmouth:
“A year ago, almost to the day, when the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Maine, no one could have predicted the turmoil and tragedy so many Mainers would face. But even in the face of extreme difficulty and uncertainty together all Mainers, communities, families, individuals and businesses rose to the challenge. The 130th Legislature needed to meet this moment as well. We were determined to get to a bipartisan deal and by keeping lines of communication open we were able to reach a compromise. With this supplemental budget, we’re delivering for Maine people and showing that we heard their concerns loud and clear. With Tax Day approaching, Maine families and businesses now will be getting support they need to move beyond the crisis and into a recovery phase.”
· Provides relief for 160,000 Mainers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic: The supplemental budget includes $47 million to exempt unemployment benefits from state income taxes for hardworking Mainers, who lost their job through no fault of their own. This includes self-employed Mainers who saw their work dry up and Mainers who saw their workplaces close. Without this relief, Mainers who relied on unemployment benefits at some point during the pandemic would’ve been hit with $200-$500 per person in state taxes.
· Provides relief for Maine businesses: The supplemental budget allocates $100 million to exempt Maine businesses who accessed relief through the Paycheck Protection Program from state income taxes. This relief would support more than 28,000 businesses across the state.
· Provides relief for direct care workers and nonprofit providers: The supplemental
budget provides $30 million in state and federal money to the people who provide quality, compassionate care to Maine seniors and individuals with disabilities. These are targeted funds for nonprofit providers that did not get Paycheck Protection Program funds, state grants or any other relief and have struggled to meet the needs of Maine people, especially as COVID-19-related mental health concerns increase. These funds target people who provide support through MaineCare sections 18, 20, 21, 29, 17, 28 and 65.
· Invests in veterans services: The supplemental budget honors our servicemen and women by providing more than $100,000 in support for Maine veterans. These funds will help hire a homeless veterans coordinator and fund basic maintenance for veterans’ cemeteries.
· Sets money aside for savings: The supplemental budget puts $8.2 million in the budget stabilization fund, also known as the “Rainy Day” fund.
OTHER KEY PROVISIONS:
· Supports the Early College Aspirations program for working-class Mainers: The Aspirations Program provides eligible Maine high school students with an opportunity to receive academic credits toward a high school diploma, and an associate or baccalaureate-level degree, through enrollment and successful completion of college-level courses at approved Maine institutions.
· Invests in a new Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System: This efficient new system, which improves DHHS’s ability to track and share data, will allow caseworkers to spend more time working directly with families.
· Takes steps to address contamination from “forever chemicals”: The supplemental budget establishes a fund to address growing concerns with PFAS.
· Promotes the construction of affordable housing in Maine: Language in the budget maximizes the value of Maine’s low income housing credit by conforming with a recent change to the federal credit.