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Mills urges lawmakers to reach two-thirds vote on spending plan, Republicans not happy with changes

Senate Republicans are not happy with the appropriations committee's actions Wednesday night
Credit: Gabrielle Mannino/NCM

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills is urging legislators to continue working towards a two-thirds vote of bipartisan support for the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to spend nearly $1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds so it can take immediate effect.

Republican leaders are making it clear they are unhappy with what the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee moved forward late Wednesday night. Senate Republicans said Democrats abandoned agreements and introduced $80 million in new spending proposals that they knew would not be acceptable to the GOP.

“Our children and grandchildren will be paying higher taxes to cover this spending for generations to come, and there are already signs that it is creating dangerous inflation that will hurt all of us in the near future. At some point, someone has to inject fiscal sanity into the discussion and we have reached that point,” Assistant Senate Republican Leader Matthew Pouliot, R-Kennebec, said in a press release.

The Republicans are also unhappy about language that would set aside $20 million for affordable housing projects for companies that have union agreements.

“It is awfully disappointing to work so hard for many months and come to an agreement, only to have the rug pulled out from under the process at the last minute. We finalized the budget at our last meeting," Sen. Paul Davis, R-Piscataquis, the lead Republican on the Appropriations Committee said in a press release. "To try to crack it back open now in order to pass a few partisan bills and appease a handful of special interests is wrong and does not benefit the people of Maine.”

Mills released a statement Thursday asking both parties "to continue working, to compromise, and to reach consensus so that this bill may reach my desk with 2/3 support and we can put its critical investments to work for Maine people today – not three months from now."

In part, she wrote:

“Sadly, although the parties agreed on 95 percent of the bill, the vote was along party lines, likely previewing a similar partisan vote on the floor of both the House and Senate. Without a strong, bipartisan vote from 2/3 of the Legislature, this important bill loses its emergency nature and, as a result, would not take effect for ninety days, postponing the investment of millions of dollars in workforce training, health insurance subsidies, child care infrastructure and other critical needs. This delay would have a substantial and serious negative effect on Maine people, on Maine businesses, and on our economic recovery. Every day that passes where this bill is not law is one more day that we aren’t putting these transformational investments to work for Maine people. If we allow three more months to pass simply because we couldn’t find consensus, then that could mean the difference between a business surviving or failing, between a parent being able to afford child care so they can go back to work or not, between expanding broadband to rural communities or not. The stakes are high. The implications are real."

The package includes funding for things such as broadband, health care, and child care. Industries like agriculture, seafood, and forestry will also get some funding. 

The full legislature will vote on the plan on Monday. 

Mills' full statement:

“The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan – modeled on the advice of experts, backed by a wide coalition of organizations, and supported by funding from the American Rescue Plan – is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to support our people, strengthen our economy, and address the longstanding structural problems that have held our state back. It includes funding for child care and housing; for broadband expansion; for water infrastructure projects; for renewable energy; for economic recovery grants for small businesses; for agricultural and seafood processing; for improving our parks and campgrounds; and for subsidies to lower health care costs for businesses and their employees, among many other things.

 Sadly, although the parties agreed on 95 percent of the bill, the vote was along party lines, likely previewing a similar partisan vote on the floor of both the House and Senate. Without a strong, bipartisan vote from 2/3 of the Legislature, this important bill loses its emergency nature and, as a result, would not take effect for ninety days, postponing the investment of millions of dollars in workforce training, health insurance subsidies, child care infrastructure and other critical needs. This delay would have a substantial and serious negative effect on Maine people, on Maine businesses, and on our economic recovery. Every day that passes where this bill is not law is one more day that we aren’t putting these transformational investments to work for Maine people. If we allow three more months to pass simply because we couldn’t find consensus, then that could mean the difference between a business surviving or failing, between a parent being able to afford child care so they can go back to work or not, between expanding broadband to rural communities or not. The stakes are high. The implications are real. 

 The Legislature has worked long and hard this session and has accomplished historic, bipartisan things, including 55 percent education funding, restoring full revenue sharing, improving health care, and rewarding working Maine people with $300 payments. In fact, they have worked too long and too hard to succumb to partisan division on what may be the most consequential bill of our lifetimes. I am asking both Democrats and Republicans to continue working, to compromise, and to reach consensus so that this bill may reach my desk with 2/3 support and we can put its critical investments to work for Maine people today – not three months from now. Our state, our people, and our economy depend on immediate action. The work of finding common ground, of negotiating divergent and strongly held viewpoints, of giving on some priorities to achieve others is often painstaking and fraught with difficulty and disappointment because nobody wins everything, and everybody loses something – but when both parties are acting in good faith, it is how good governance is done.”