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Maine Legislature passes $8.5 billion budget

Legislature returns to Maine State House for first time
Legislature returns to Maine State House for first time
Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 1:06 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 30, 2021 at 5:17 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - A compromise has been worked out on a state budget.

On Sunday, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee reached an agreement.

Wednesday, the legislature passed a budget worth $8.5 billion over two years.

That’s about $3 million less than the original proposal.

After weeks of negotiations, the budget passed after a 119 to 25 vote in the House and a 32 to 3 vote Wednesday in the Senate.

This means it will going into law Wednesday after Gov. Janet Mills signs it.

While not all lawmakers are pleased with what it is in the budget, they’re getting praise from the governor for their hard work in reaching a unanimous and bipartisan agreement.

Mills believes this budget makes important and meaningful progress for Mainers.

“I think the Appropriations Committee did a really super job in working together in a bipartisan way, listening to each other, and coming up with a solution that not everybody likes perfectly, but really gets us in a good position,” said Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford.

Maine Senate President Troy Jackson says this budget will provide a one-time $300 “hazard payment” to Mainers earning $75,000 or less as an individual, or $150,000 or less for joint filers.

“It’s important that we send money off to the working people of the state of Maine who have worked through the pandemic. I think that’s a very important thing that we have done,” said Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake. “Yeah, it’s only $300, but if you didn’t take the $300, then it would be in the budget and they would try and spend it somewhere else. I think the hardworking Mainers can spend it better than the government can.”

This budget will also boost public education in Maine. Forty-five million dollars will go toward the School Revolving Renovation Fund, which will allow schools to make necessary upgrades. Those working in nursing homes and senior living facilities will also benefit. Funding there has been increased to almost $150 million.

“It rewards nursing homes, which are struggling. It helps direct care workers which is a huge issue, and it returned $300 to the pockets of a lot of Maine people. I was really happy to see that plus an overall cap on the growth of government. The government has put in a $8.8 billion budget and this is $8.5. It’s a step in the right direction,” Bennett said.

The deal did come with some controversy between lawmakers, some arguing that certain measures were too expensive. However, after a year of hardship due to the pandemic, they’re glad to give back to the Maine people.

“It would it would have been a better budget if we would have done this as the total biennial budget, not as a supplemental budget, and they would not have run a majority budget back on March 30, but this is where we are at. We have to move forward,” Timberlake said.

“Contrary to what we hear around the country or around Maine, how divided, how partnerships are ruling today. This committee has just proven that not to be true,” Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham.

Mills issued the following statement after the Legislature approved the biennial budget:

“This budget is an historic investment in Maine people. By achieving 55 percent education funding and full revenue sharing, by increasing property tax relief and sending $300 in hazard pay to working Maine people, we are putting money back into the pockets of the people of this state and investing in a stronger, brighter future. I know this legislative session has been particularly difficult because of the pandemic, and I want to applaud both Republicans and Democrats for working together in good-faith to negotiate a strong budget that we can enact immediately. I commend the Legislature, am grateful for their work on this budget, and look forward to signing it into law in the coming days.”

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