On March 16, 2020 Governor Janet Mills and Legislative leaders reached a bipartisan agreement on a revised supplemental budget proposal that protects the health and well-being of Maine people as the State responds to the 2019 novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. In a vote this evening, the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee unanimously approved the proposal.
The $73 million revised proposal, which is $52 million less than originally proposed, removes several items presented in Governor Mills’ first supplemental budget and now prioritizes initiatives related to COVID-19, including a $1 million funding infusion for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which will be used to supplement federal funds to expand capacity at the State laboratory and to hire and retain critical health care personnel including epidemiologists and public health nurses to respond to the pandemic. The revised proposal also now includes $15 million for rate increases to support direct health care providers who are caring for Maine seniors, people with disabilities and children with behavioral health needs, $38 million for pre-K-12 education raising the State’s contribution by one percent from 50.78 to 51.78 percent, another step towards the 55 percent in state law, and $10 million to repair the State’s roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure.
It also dedicates $17.4 million to the Budget Stabilization Fund to prepare for the possibility of future COVID-19 related expenses or any shifts in Maine’s economy as a result of COVID-19. If the increase is approved by the Legislature, the Budget Stabilization Fund will have grown by approximately $50 million since Governor Mills took office.
“This revised proposal represents a bipartisan effort to strengthen the State’s ability to respond to and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Maine,” said Governor Mills. “It takes strong steps to boost Maine’s health care system in support of our most vulnerable citizens, support the Maine CDC, and prepare for the very real prospect of an economic downturn related to the virus. I thank Legislative leaders for rising to the challenge of our times to reach this agreement and protect Maine people and our economy.”
“With the status of Maine’s COVID-19 rapidly changing, the Governor, Legislative leaders and members of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee have put together a smart, responsible spending package that will support health care professionals, workers and businesses amid this public health crisis,” said Senate President Troy Jackson. “It also meets the fundamental needs of this state that can’t afford to be delayed any longer. In times of uncertainty, we must put partisanship aside and put Maine people first, which is what we did. All of us are committed to learning from other states and making sure Maine is better able to weather this outbreak.”
“In these highly unusual times, we must all adjust to a very new and unfamiliar ‘normal’ for the short term while being mindful of our neighbors, family, and friends,” said Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow. “This is also true here in the State Capitol, where all of us have been working collaboratively through the weekend and beyond to look after the best interests of all Mainers.”
“Protecting the health and financial security of Maine's working families during a challenging and unpredictable time is the priority of this bipartisan legislation,” said House Speaker Sara Gideon. “As elected officials, we have a grave and urgent responsibility to take decisive action to confront this crisis. Working together is the only way we will be able mitigate this pandemic and I want to thank Governor Mills, Senate President Jackson, Senator Dow and Representative Dillingham for their unwavering commitment to this coordinated response. Across Maine government, that effort will continue as we work to put in place effective, evidence-based measures to ensure the safety of Maine families, communities and our economy.”
“The legislation is a bipartisan effort to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “It represents a shared commitment to acting swiftly and decisively to try and mitigate the impact of COVID-19. It sends a message to the public that we are addressing the needs of our state together, encouraging people to help one another, take the threat seriously, and minimize panic.”
In addition to revising the original supplemental proposal downward, the new proposal does not draw from any of the $74 million in funding projected earlier this month by the Maine Revenue Forecasting Committee.
The Governor and Legislative leaders also agreed on a bond package of $105 million of transportation funding and $15 million to expand high-speed internet access, a critical need as much of the state temporarily transitions to remote learning and remote work during this period of social distancing.
With the revised supplemental, the State budget would stand at $8.086 billion.
The proposal is in addition to a series of bipartisan emergency bills under consideration by the Legislature to support the State’s response.