AUGUSTA — Lawmakers have started to work on a relatively smaller spending proposal from Maine’s new Democratic governor before they begin considering her $8 billion, two-year proposed budget.

Gov. Janet Mills’ supplemental spending proposal would pay the state’s bills through July 1 while also proposing new spending. Lawmakers on the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee this past week began considering her supplemental plan, and will ask more in-depth questions in upcoming work sessions.

Her plan includes $1 million to celebrate Maine’s upcoming 2020 bicentennial, roughly $350,000 to pay for experts for the Public Utilities Commission and $2.5 million to meet Maine’s required share of estimated disaster recovery costs. That includes $1.6 million for the October 2017 windstorm and $900,000 for coastal flooding in York County in March 2018.

Mills, buoyed by Democratic control of the state’s House and Senate, wants to move forward on campaign promises to address health care access, the opioid crisis, education funding and economic development.

Her supplemental plan includes proposals to reverse direction from former Republican Gov. Paul Le-Page’s policies.

She proposes lifting limits on Medicaid-funded methadone, buprenorphine and naloxone combination drugs to combat the state’s opioid crisis.

“Drug overdoses took 282 lives in Maine in just the first nine months of 2018 – one overdose per day,” Mills’ finance chief, Kirsten Figeuroa, told lawmakers Thursday. “Evidence is clear that medication-assisted treatment is a critical tool in fighting opioid addiction.”

Mills’ supplemental budget also proposes allowing Maine to purchase land to build a prerelease center in Washington County, where LePage shuttered a prison. Voters had authorized a $149 million bond issue to both expand the Windham state prison and fund such a prerelease center, which would help inmates transition into the job market.

Mills’ two-year, $8 billion budget proposal includes funding for voter-approved Medicaid expansion that she deemed the “bargain of a century.”

Mills’ budget represents an 11 percent increase over the current two-year $7.2 billion budget, which runs through June.

It’s drawn some opposition from Republicans who, despite their smaller numbers, hope to reduce the overall level of spending. Republican legislative leaders say Mills’ proposal relies too heavily on independent estimates of rising tax revenues in years to come.

Meanwhile, liberal groups want to reverse the parts of the LePage-era tax breaks that benefit the wealthy.


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