2020 unleashed chaos, tragedy, uncertainty and hardship into the lives of thousands of Maine people, communities, businesses and organizations. With more Mainers getting vaccinated daily, warmer weather on the horizon and COVID-19 restrictions loosening, lawmakers should do what they can to ensure that 2021 doesn’t do the same.

On Tuesday, Democrats, Republicans and independents have a chance to come together and pass a budget that provides Maine families, schools, municipalities and small businesses with stability as we begin to put this public health crisis behind us and rebuild our lives.

Too often the biennial budget passes in the final hours of the fiscal year, often flirting with a state shutdown in the middle of the tourist season. After a year of uncertainty, Maine people, small businesses, schools and municipalities don’t need that unnecessary anxiety this summer.  We need to put politics aside and pass a sustainable budget now.

Maine recorded its first case of COVID-19 on March 12, 2020. A week later, our lives changed dramatically. Children began remote learning, as teachers and parents adapted in heroic ways. Parents were stuck either working from home while also watching their kids or desperately searching for child care so they could go to work. Small-business owners were forced to overhaul their business models overnight just to keep their doors open. It’s been a difficult year, and many families and businesses only just barely made it through.

Now, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. More than 250,000 Mainers are fully vaccinated, and more than one in four Mainers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The upcoming tourist season looks promising. Many businesses are increasing capacity and moving toward normalcy. Lawmakers shouldn’t do anything that jeopardizes this recovery.

By passing the “Back to Basics” Budget, Maine lawmakers can fund essential services now and keep the government running while debating any new spending or policies. It simply extends the current 2019 biennial budget and supplemental budgets that have passed with two-thirds support in both the House and the Senate.

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The “Back to Basics” Budget keeps our children safe and supports Maine schools. School districts all across the state are crafting their budgets now so they can plan to fully return to in-person instruction five days a week in the fall. The “Back to Basics” Budget provides the certainty and predictability that schools need to reopen.

After a tough year, older Mainers and families shouldn’t have to worry about whether they can continue to count on property tax relief. The “Back to Basics” Budget keeps our promises to Maine people and municipalities on property tax relief. This budget includes $95 million in property tax relief through the Property Tax Fairness Credit, the Homestead Exemption Program and municipal revenue sharing, all of which has had two-thirds support over the past two years.

Finally, the “Back to Basics” Budget supports rural hospitals and the health of Maine people. It invests in our rural hospitals, nursing homes and health clinics so Maine people can continue to rely on them in a public health crisis. In 2019, Maine lawmakers increased funding for services to support survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence for the first time in nearly two decades. This budget continues that vital funding at the same rate.

Last March, the Maine Legislature came together and rose to the moment by passing a supplemental budget that prioritized Maine workers, families and businesses in the face of an impending crisis. This year, as Maine continues to grapple with an unprecedented public health crisis, lawmakers must do the same. Lawmakers must put politics aside and provide Maine people with the leadership this crisis demands.

The “Back to Basics” Budget meets the unprecedented needs of this extraordinary moment. Our constituents sent us to Augusta to get Maine through this crisis. This budget is about supporting every business, every teacher, every health care worker, even every student who has been working so hard to get us back on track. And the time to pass it is now.


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