AUGUSTA, Maine — Governor Janet Mills told Legislators Monday night her proposed two-year state budget will make needed investments in Maine and will be financially sustainable.
Mills spoke to a joint session of the House and Senate, which will ultimately decide what is included in the final version of the new budget.
Mills made her first speech as Governor in the House chamber where she once served as a legislator. She defended the $8.04 billion budget, saying it is the right mix of increases to address critical needs without raising taxes.
Mills says the budget would use the largest share of the increase to pay for Medicaid expansion—roughly $177 million—and increased funding for K-12 schools, $126 million, plus added funding for higher education and child development services.
She says the package would use projected increases in tax revenue to pay for them. Those projections come from a special state committee that meets twice a year to forecast tax revenues. Mills said it is a “common sense” and “pragmatic” budget that avoids any need for tax increases.
“Maine people want better health care, Maine people want better schools, better jobs, and greater economic opportunity and they do not want higher taxes. This is a pragmatic, common sense budget that lives within our means and delivers what Maine people want,” the Governor told the Legislative audience.
Republicans say the $8.04 billion total is just too much for Maine to afford, and say there are some specific problems with the package.
“I’m questioning some of the numbers that appear to be rosier than I think they really are,” said Sen. Dana Dow, the Senate GOP Leader. “And (I) question whether Maine taxpayers will be held without an increase in taxes.”
Dow said the Governor’s proposal to raise the minimum salary for teachers to $40,000 could be an added burden on local budgets and cause property tax increases.
The budget now will get taken apart and examined in detail by the Legislature, a process that’s expected to start next week, and last until sometime in May. The new state budget has to be passed and signed into law before the end of June.