On Tuesday, April 19, the Maine Legislature passed the supplemental budget, which features our plans for how to invest the state’s $1.2 billion surplus in Maine’s people. Then, on Wednesday, April 20, Gov. Janet Mills signed the budget into law. I’d like to discuss some of the items that will address our current challenges, offer immediate relief and set us up for longer term success. From relief checks to PFAS remediation to education, we are going to invest in Maine people for now and the future.

Susan Deschambault Courtesy photo

The first item, which is one that many of you have likely already heard about, is the $850 checks that will be sent to Mainers who are full-time residents, file a 2021 Maine income tax return by Oct. 31, and meet certain income eligibility guidelines. At this point, checks are projected to start being mailed out in June. Because there are so many — like last time — it will take several weeks for all of the checks to be mailed out. For joint filers, both individuals will receive a check as long as each of the individuals meet the income eligibility guidelines. With many people still feeling the pain of high energy costs and historic inflation rates, I hope that these checks will help Mainers bounce back and recover.

Next up is PFAS remediation. Our district has known about PFAS for several years, since the Stone Family Farm in Arundel became a widely known case in the media. The budget uses $60 million to establish a trust fund for addressing PFAS contamination. This money will help private Maine labs increase their PFAS testing capacity. This is important because we need to test soil, water and wildlife before we can know how to best target our PFAS clean-up efforts. We’ll also be creating 11 PFAS-related positions at the Maine CDC and the Departments of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which will help with our PFAS response. Finally, some funds will start providing aid and support to families and farms while also beginning to clean up or mitigate PFAS, especially on farms that are already in crisis.

In addition to relief checks and PFAS remediation, the budget also makes big investments in Maine’s education system. We will continue meeting the voter-mandated state obligation to fund 55 percent of public education. Moreover, the new Education Stabilization Fund will help ensure we maintain this commitment in the future. We’re also investing funds to provide up to two years of free community college for Maine high school graduating classes from 2020 through 2023 who then enroll in a Maine community college full time. Also, the Opportunity Maine tax credit’s maximum annual individual benefit will increase from $2,000 to $2,500 — up to a $25,000 lifetime benefit — and includes a one-time $1,000 adjustment for STEM graduates. To learn more about Opportunity Maine, please visit maine.gov/revenue/ and then search for Educational Opportunity Tax Credit. It’s a great program that encourages people to live and work in Maine after they receive their education. Finally, the budget will freeze in-state tuition at the University of Maine System — making this the seventh year of the last 10 in which in-state tuition has not gone up — and also fully fund universal free school meals in public schools.

While I could have written a whole book on the budget, I hope that these highlights give you some insight on the great things the budget will do for Mainers. If you have any comments or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or (207) 287-1515. It’s an honor to represent our community in Augusta.

Susan Deschambault represents Senate District 32, Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman. She can be reached at [email protected] or 207-287-1515.

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