Gov. Janet Mills plans to take a different approach in her televised State of the State address next week.

Rather than outline her achievements and policy goals, the Democratic governor is expected to comfort and reassure a state that has been wracked in recent months by a mass shooting that claimed the lives of 18 people and devastating storms that caused severe flooding and damaged fishing piers, sandy beaches and other coastal infrastructure.

Gov. Janet Mills speaks Dec. 20 at a press conference held at the Maine Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Augusta.  Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

An unusual approach is needed, Mills said, because it’s been an unusual year.

“This past year – especially these past few months – has been anything but normal for Maine. It has been a period of extraordinary challenge for our state,” she said in a written statement Friday. “Traditionally, as chief executive, I have stood before the Legislature to address a series of high-profile issues, challenges and opportunities, but these unique times call for a unique approach. I look forward to delivering this year’s address in a novel way and working with the Legislature to address Maine’s challenges.”

Mills still will submit a more traditional address focusing on her upcoming budget and policy priorities in writing to lawmakers on Tuesday morning ahead of her speech that evening. The state is again expecting another budget surplus and, with the budget stabilization, or rainy day, fund already at its statutory limit, that money will have to go somewhere.

Sitting governors typically deliver a State of the State address every January, but the Maine Constitution allows each chief executive to decide the timing and method. While most governors choose to deliver their address in person before a joint session of the Legislature, that’s not always the case.


Mills delivered her 2021 state of the budget address via video because of the pandemic. Former Gov. Paul LePage delivered his speech in writing in 2016 because House Democrats were considering impeaching him over his efforts to withhold funding from a nonprofit that hired the former Democratic speaker of the House.

This most recent year has been a trying one for many Mainers.

In October, a gunman went on a shooting rampage in Lewiston, killing 18 people and wounding 13 others at a bowling alley and bar. It was the country’s worst mass shooting of 2023. That event has prompted calls for new gun safety legislation and has caused some elected officials, including Mills, to reconsider their previous opposition. It’s unclear whether Mills will use the address to endorse any specific reforms.

The state also has experienced historic and damaging storms in recent weeks.

In December, two people were killed when a heavy rain and windstorm swept through the state, causing rapid snowmelt and flooding that washed out roads and bridges and flooded basements.

Then back-to-back storms early this month brought hurricane-force winds and storm surges that flooded communities up and down the coast, particularly Down East. Just three days after the first storm hit on Jan. 10, another winter storm brought heavy rain, flooding, 15- to 20-foot waves and wind gusts of up to 60 mph, battering areas still struggling to recover from the previous storm.


The high winds and storm surge coincided with the astronomical high tide, causing historic flooding along the coast that damaged businesses and lighthouses, washed away fishing piers and buildings, and caused significant erosion at beaches.

Only the park benches remain where a boardwalk washed away Griffith’s Head in Reid State Park. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Mills already has commented about the storms and the likelihood that more intense storms will be part of Maine’s immediate future, but she may go into greater detail about how her administration plans to address them.

A nonpartisan panel of economists and state budget officials expects an additional $139 million in revenue this fiscal year. Already, lawmakers this session will consider a proposal to allocate $50 million to help businesses impacted by the recent storms, and there are a host of other bills that would require funding if passed.

Although the two-year state budget has grown from $7.2 billion in 2018 to $10.3 billion, Mills has tempered the spending requests of her own party, which controls both chambers of the Legislature.

Mills’ budget proposals have been presented with an eye toward a prospective economic downturn, which could require future cuts. So far, however, the economy has been more resilient than expected, although some states, including Massachusetts, already are seeing a decline in revenue.

Mills has not yet signaled whether she will propose any new programs, but she has consistently said lawmakers should prioritize funding for a slate of bipartisan programs already enacted.

Her office said Friday that her supplemental budget will address the state’s “lack of affordable housing, the need to improve child safety and the need to continue tackling the opioid epidemic.” Specifics were not provided.

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