On Wednesday, June 30, Maine legislators convened in Augusta for a two-day marathon session. We left the State House in the wee hours of the morning on Friday tired but prideful knowing that we had accomplished a lot for the people of Maine. Though we took up various measures, I am particularly proud that we were able to reach a bipartisan agreement on a commonsense budget. By working together, we were able to pass a budget that makes vital investments in education, health care, land conservation, workers, and the future of this state.

The new budget addresses the top issues that Mainers are facing today, and does so in a responsible manner. One of our key objectives this session was to provide critical relief from high property taxes, which have put a strain on families and seniors all across the state. In order to make a meaningful difference, we knew we needed to fully restore municipal revenue sharing. Municipal revenue sharing is a program where the state returns 5 percent of sales tax revenue to local governments to fund essential services, shifting the burden off property taxpayers. Despite being required by law, the program was eliminated in 2015, leaving property taxpayers and municipalities to pay the price. Although the Maine Legislature has begun to restore the program in recent years, I’m thrilled to report that this budget finally delivers, and increases revenue to 5 percent by 2023. Providing this additional funding to localities across the state will help ensure they can fund their critical services without the need to raise revenue through property taxes. In addition, Maine lawmakers increased the Homestead Exemption so homeowners can now take $25,000 off the value of their property before calculating taxes, and expanded the Property Tax Fairness Credit to cover 83,000 Mainers. Together, I’m hopeful these programs will get people the relief they need.

Throughout this budget process, we also took great care to invest in areas that were hit hard by the pandemic. It’s why this budget puts funds toward supporting our senior living facilities and the folks who care for our most vulnerable residents. It injects $20 million in state funds to our senior living and nursing home facilities, which will be matched by $70 million in federal funds. This will do a lot to support these critical places that care for our loved ones. We also increased the MaineCare reimbursement rate for our direct care and essential support workers to 125 percent of the minimum wage. These are some of the most dedicated, caring and hard-working individuals in our state, and making sure they earn a living wage is the least we can do.

The budget also marks a historic landmark; it’s the first time that the state is set to meet its obligation to fund 55 percent of public K-12 education. Since voters passed this law by referendum in 2004, Maine has never met its requirement to fund public schools. Seventeen years later, this is finally changing, and it will help guarantee that our students and educators have ample resources at their disposal, and that school programs don’t get stripped because of a lack of funding.

Finally, we didn’t forget the everyday Mainers who worked throughout the pandemic and kept our state moving. Individuals who made $75,000 or less, and joint filers who made $150,000 or less, will receive a one-time, $300 “hazard payment.” It may not seem like much to some, but I know there are still many people trying to recover after draining their savings during the pandemic. This will help.

These are just some of the highlights. While I am extremely proud of what’s in this budget, I’m equally proud of how we got here. Republicans, Democrats and Independents worked together to do what is right for Maine people. This is a great display of bipartisanship and how government should work all the time. I plan to continue working this way with all my colleagues so we don’t let petty disagreements and partisan bickering get in the way of doing what’s right for our state.

You can always reach me by email at [email protected] or by phone at 287-1515.

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