AUGUSTA, Maine — As Gov. Janet Mills is poised to start her second term, she said she wants to ensure Mainers have a stable government that can maintain needed services and programs, even if a recession hits the economy.
“I think people want to see a sense of stability from government, not a lot of drama when it comes to inventing new programs or diminishing old programs,” Mills said in an interview with NEWS CENTER Maine Tuesday.
“I think they want to be able to count on things we have provided without a lot of dramatic ups and downs,” Mills added.
Mills said that the desire for stability and her concern that Maine and the country could face recession in 2023 are major reasons why she worked to build the state’s “Rainy Day” fund to a record high of $900 million.
The governor said the experience with the COVID-19 pandemic taught her that the state needs to be prepared for whatever challenges appear.
“If and when there is a rainy day, we are prepared for it [and] the budget is prepared for it," Mills said. I’m very concerned about [the] talk of recession. Some say we’ve been in [a] recession, some say we will go into one this spring. I want to be prepared for that and want Maine people to be prepared for it.”
The governor’s proposed new two-year state budget is supposed to be submitted to the state legislature by the end of the day Friday.
Mills said there are many challenges facing the state, including affordable housing, the need for more mental health treatment, and the rising number of opioid drug deaths.
“Maine, in particular, we’re an easy target for out-of-state drug dealers. I want to put a stop to that one way or another,” Mills said, although she did not provide specifics.
The governor did point to bright spots, including several major business expansions announced in the past few months, a growing number of people moving to Maine, and the passage in Congress of a six-year delay in new regulations on the lobster industry to protect right whales. She described that recent decision as “close to a miracle."
"We really weren’t looking forward to new regulations, which would have been devastating to the industry, just devastating," Mills said.
Mills went on to say the moratorium on new whale rules is a relief to the state and the industry.
“Now, we have some breathing room, have time to do more research into the right whale, and lobster industry effect on right whales[s] and whether we can do anything to prevent [the] extinction of right whale[s] without the extinction of the lobster industry, and that was the threat," she explained.
When asked if she is crafting an inaugural address to inspire Maine people about their future, Mills again looked back at the lessons from the pandemic and said it showed Maine people at their best.
“I think Maine people inspire themselves. What we’ve gone through [over] the last four years has been inspirational … They inspired a lot of courage and stamina and resilience, just the hardiness during those times. We saw some of the worst times we will see in decades," Mills said.
After Mills discussed the business growth, the pandemic experience, and the arrival of new residents, she was asked if she was optimistic about Maine’s future.
Her answer was short and simple: “Why shouldn’t I be?”
The inauguration of Gov. Janet Mills can be seen live on NEWS CENTER Maine Wednesday starting at 7 p.m. on television and online.