Maine's State of the State 2020-Gov. Janet Mills
In her first State of the State address, Governor Janet Mills trumpeted the bipartisan progress Maine has made over the past year.
The Governor, paying tribute to the resiliency of Maine people, spoke of the history of the state on the anniversary of its bicentennial and laid out her vision to improve the prosperity of Maine people, including taking action to strengthen the economy, build the workforce, improve health care, and fight climate change.
“These are trying times. Politics from Washington and beyond are marked by rancor, divisiveness and fear,” said Governor Mills. “During this volatile presidential election year, the noise is deafening, turning us away from the security and saneness of our own small outpost. Tariffs and trade wars, threats of terrorism and partisan fighting paralyze the nation’s capital. But here in Maine, we are doing what Mainers have done for more than two centuries: putting our shoulder to the wheel and working across the aisle to get things done for Maine people.”
In her remarks, Governor Mills announced steps to implement the State’s new 10-year economic development plan to diversify and strengthen our economy and prepare for any economic downturn, including:
- Adding at least $20 million to the Budget Stabilization Fund: “Maine’s economy is on solid footing and is growing…While this is all progress, it is important that we remain cautious about the future…We must be ready for any downturn, any changes. We must remain resilient. That is why I am committed to setting aside at least another $20 million for the rainy day fund this year.
- Proposing $15 million to expand broadband: “High-speed internet is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. Increasing access to high speed internet will allow our businesses to expand and allow all people to connect with schools, health care providers and markets around the country and around the world. This session, I propose that the Legislature fund $15 million to expand broadband for Maine people and businesses. We can no longer afford to wait.”
- Increasing the Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit: “To foster innovation, my Administration will also support increased funding for the Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit. By helping new businesses take root and grow, we will create jobs and diversify our economy.”
- Building more housing: “Assistant Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau has proposed a Maine Affordable Housing Tax Credit program, similar to the Maine Historic Tax Credit program which helped boost the economy in recent years. This proposal would create nearly 1,000 additional affordable homes over eight years, increasing Maine’s current rate of production by 50 percent. Send that bill to my desk. I will sign it.”
Governor Mills also called upon the Legislature to take action to improve the health and welfare of Maine people, especially children, by:
- Passing the Made for Maine Health Coverage Act: “The “Made for Maine Health Coverage Act,” offers a Maine solution for small businesses and it creates a marketplace designed to best meet the needs of Maine people. I ask this body to pass that legislation on behalf of businesses like Becky’s Diner...This legislation is critical to supporting small businesses like hers and self-employed people, improving health care, and strengthening our workforce.”
- Bolstering the Child Welfare System: “I will ask this Legislature to fund another 20 positions to respond quickly and effectively to reports of abuse or neglect of our children.”
- Forming an Opioid Overdose Review Panel: “I will call for a new panel of experts to review overdose deaths, like the panels that review maternal and child deaths, to learn as much as we can to improve our response to this epidemic.”
Governor Mills called on the Legislature to support Maine’s higher education system, address student debt, and ensure Maine students have the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow by:
- Funding Higher Education: “This year, I ask this Legislature to fully fund the second year of the higher education budget which was cut last spring. These institutions of higher learning cannot withstand rising costs without the prospects of higher tuition. And higher tuition is the last thing our students need.”
- Funding Career and Technical Education: “Our CTEs are more important than ever; yet they have not received significant funds for equipment since 1998. I ask this body to fund equipment upgrades for our CTEs so that teachers like Greg are able to provide our 8,000 CTE students with the skills that we desperately need them to have.”
- Simplifying Debt Relief: “We need to simplify debt relief programs like the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit to help more graduates retire their debt. And we must boost the Educators for Maine Loan Forgiveness Program to incentivize young teachers to work in the underserved areas which desperately need them.”
Governor Mills also committed to continuing the fight against climate change and highlighted the potential of offshore wind to create jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and save Maine people money. She previewed an announcement about:
- Offshore Wind Jobs: “This spring I will visit Scotland to see the offshore wind platforms they are using to supply that country with clean renewable energy. I am determined that the business we once lost to them, we will bring back to Maine. We have great potential. And in the coming weeks, my administration will be taking steps forward to unleash it. Stay tuned.”
Governor Mills, recognizing the several tragedies the state has experienced this year, announced actions to better support Maine’s first responders by:
- Enhancing first responders’ survivor benefit: “In Detective Ben Campbell’s name, I ask this body to enact legislation this session to increase the state’s benefit for the families of our fallen first responders. The current benefit is shamefully inadequate to the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in the line of duty. We ask so much of the men and women who answer the call to service. Let us be there for their families in times of need.”
- Creating a scholarship to train young firefighters: “In honor of Captain Michael Bell, I will to create a scholarship fund for young people to train in fire suppression, with the first contribution coming from my contingent account as Governor. Maine needs more firefighters, particularly in rural Maine, and to that same end, I am proud to support Senator Erin Herbig’s legislation to fund the Maine Length of Service Program to boost retirement benefits to firefighters and EMS workers to compensate them for their service. We can do this. Because we are not Washington, we are Maine.”
Governor Mills’ guests for the State of the State, whom she paid tribute to in her remarks, included: Terry Bell, Chief of the Farmington Fire Department; Adria Horn, Vice President of Workforce, Tilson Technologies; Scott Budde, Maine Harvest Federal Credit Union; Hilary Campbell, wife of Maine State Police Detective Benjamin Campbell; Janet Cole-Cross, daughter of Bangor veteran Galen Cole; Greg Cushman, Maine 2019 CTE Teacher of the Year; Abdi Nor Iftin, Author of Call Me American; Kifah Abdulla, artist, writer, teacher and former prisoner of war in Iran; Becky Rand, owner of Becky’s Diner, Portland; Margo Walsh, founder of MaineWorks; and Heather Whitaker, Maine 2020 Teacher of the Year.