Gov. Mills discusses plans for Maine’s recovery from COVID-19
This is part two of a two-part special report with the governor
AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - On March 26th, capacity limits for indoor gatherings will increase to 50%, while outdoor gatherings increase to 75% capacity. Maine is gradually re-opening, but there’s still more work to do before we get back to a pre-pandemic way of life. Brittany McHatten spoke with Governor Janet Mills to discuss what’s next in Maine’s recovery.
(This is part two of a two-part special report. Part one can be seen here.)
“Nobody wants to be the governor who bans weddings, funerals, graduations, parades, celebrations, closes bars. The Grinch who stole Christmas -- who wants to be that governor? Nobody!” That’s the reaction from Gov. Mills when discussing what the last year has been like.
One year into the pandemic, and tough decisions still lie ahead for Maine’s governor. She’s facing pressure to expand vaccine eligibility, including from families of loved ones with preexisting conditions.
“Well, first of all, my heart goes out to people who have various conditions that make them more vulnerable should they contract coronavirus,” Gov. Mills said. “We hear from people every day, and my heart goes out to them. We are trying to get the most vaccine out to the most number of people who are most likely to get sick, very sick, be hospitalized, or even die should they contract the virus. Every measure we’ve taken, every action we’ve taken, has been based on science, and medical science and fact.”
With nearly half a million doses administered, and other numbers trending in the right direction, Governor Mills announced the Moving Maine Forward re-opening plan last week. But, she says the mask mandate won’t be lifted anytime soon.
“I take my lead from Dr. Fauci and from Dr. Shah. The President of the US has asked us to keep wearing masks. And I don’t think it’s over until it’s over,” Gov. Mills said. “So, while we’re dialing up business activity and hoping that succeeds, we’re keeping our eyes on all sorts of medical and public health metrics... It’s going to be an interesting balance. We trust the businesses and the people who go there to keep themselves safe, to keep their staff safe, to keep the public safe, to comply with those requirements -- the mask mandate and the six-foot distancing. It’s going to be tough, but we know what the consequences of not doing it are.
One area her plan doesn’t specifically discuss is education.
“What do you want to see schools do, what’s it going to take to get to 100% in-person learning?” McHatten asked.
“Our schools are based on, in good part, local control,” the governor answered. “The state funds over half the money for schools, public schools, and then the local property tax payers pick up the rest. As you know, every school district has a school board, school committee. They make the final decisions and they also engage in collective bargaining with their local unions. So I am not going to step on their toes and say, ‘You have to do this, you have to do that,’ when different localities have different issues.”
In an effort to stimulate economic recovery, the governor is proposing an ambitious Back to Work bond package. However, some Republicans say it’s simply too much spending.
“I invite them to suggest where they might want to cut,” Gov. Mills responded. “Most of our budget, more than a third of it, is general fund monies that go towards education, K-12 education... Healthcare is part of it as well. We’re not going to make cuts to social services and public safety when those programs are needed more than ever before. That’s where we stand.”
Part one of this special report looked back on Maine’s response to the pandemic.
You can watch the interview in full on WABI’s Facebook page.
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