Having passed a baseline budget funding the basics of government back in March, the Legislature was tasked, for the past three months, with taking aim at a series of critical issues facing Maine families.

To its credit, the more than $800 million spending plan passed last week by the members of the Appropriations Committee hits a lot of them. If passed this week by the full Legislature, the bipartisan proposal will provide relief and support to people throughout the state.

The proposal, which passed the committee 11-1 early Wednesday morning, is essentially the second part of what would be a roughly $10.8 billion two-year state budget. It follows the Democrats’ budget funding continuing services, which included no new initiatives but ensured that the government could keep running in the new fiscal year.

The hard choices were left for later in the session, and there were no shortage of them.

In the end, the Appropriations Committee, which ultimately decides which passed bills get funded in the budget and which do not, did a good job of balancing the various ideas and commitments on the shelf.

Included in the budget is $60 million for child care, critical funding for an industry that doesn’t work for anyone right now. It’s too expensive for parents and too stressful for providers, and wages are far too low for workers, who are leaving in droves – even if they would much rather stick around and help take care of Maine’s kids.


The budget would double the wage stipend available to child care workers and expand the subsidy program, so more parents could get help with the high cost of care.

Improving child care will not only mean better outcomes and early lives for our children, but also will lower the stress on families and make our workforce stronger, as more parents will be able to go to work without worrying about their child care.

Families will also be served by the new paid family and medical leave program, which receives $25 million in startup costs in the budget. Eventually, it will be funded by a 0.7%-1% payroll tax, split evenly between employers and employees, and it will allow Mainers to take time off to take care of themselves or a family member without putting their job or their finances at risk.

The plan comes after a lot of deliberation, both from a task force that painstakingly built the program by analyzing others, and the Legislature and Gov. Mills, who is wisely backing the plan rather than allowing the issue to go to referendum, where there are fewer opportunities to tailor the program to fit Maine.

There are questions about how the program will be used, and how its use will affect businesses already struggling to keep enough workers. Done correctly, however, it can allow people to keep working through family crisis, even if they need a short break, rather than leaving the workforce altogether. In any case, it’ll give a lot of Mainers peace and mind they haven’t had before.

The budget will also help to put out other policy fires cropping up around Maine.


The proposal includes $31 million to support emergency medical services, which have been said to be at a “breaking point” in Maine after years of low funding and increasing costs of service. Ambulances have to be available whenever and wherever someone needs them; this money will help maintain that reality throughout our state.

The proposal also sets aside $16 million in additional funding for General Assistance, the program of last resort for Mainers who need shelter, fuel, food or medicine. GA programs in service-center cities throughout the state have struggled to deal with surging homelessness and the arrival of asylum seekers. A strong GA program helps keep those people afloat so that their struggles don’t become permanent.

In the same vein, there’s funding for Housing First programs, which aim to get people who are homeless quickly into stable housing, along with 24/7 services to help them succeed, as well as $1.5 million for rural recovery residences for families, so that families can stay together while a parent is treated for substance use disorder – one way to help deal with Maine’s child abuse and neglect crisis.

Together, these programs and services will be a hand up for Maine families as they face a series of tough, interconnected challenges. Republicans wanted more tax relief in the package, but ultimately supported the package, except for a lone holdout.

That’s a good outcome. This is a budget that invests in Maine families. The Legislature should pass it.

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