AUGUSTA — A legislative committee on Monday advanced a new supplemental state budget proposal that includes significant investments in housing, education and child care – and withdraws controversial changes that had proposed taking money out of Maine’s highway fund and rolling back income tax relief for pensioners.

The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee voted 8-5 in support of the budget proposal, L.D. 2214, which now advances to votes in the House of Representatives and Senate. The vote was along party lines, with Republicans on the committee voting in the minority in favor of a different amended version of the bill.

“This supplemental budget proposal is the result of hard work and invests in Maine people, supports families and helps lay the foundation for a strong future for our state,” Rep. Melanie Sachs, D-Freeport, House chair of the committee, said in a statement after the vote.

The proposal includes $76 million to increase affordable housing through investments in emergency housing, low-income housing tax credits, and the state’s Affordable Homeownership and Rural Affordable Rental Housing programs; $21 million to ensure the state continues to share the total cost of funding K-12 education at 55%; and $26 million to support nursing homes.

It also includes $14.1 million to fully fund the income eligibility expansion for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program, also known as the Medicare Savings Programs; $12.9 million in child care investments; and $19.6 million in mental and public health funds for mobile response services, crisis receiving centers and other investments.

And it includes $9 million to repair storm damage and give local governments more resources to build storm resilience.


The proposal also reverses controversial changes that had been approved by the committee in a late-night session earlier this month to make changes to the pension income tax deduction and to unify the highway and general funds.

The new proposal approved by a majority of committee members Monday increases pay for education technicians and support staff from L.D. 974, which would raise their salaries starting in 2026, and it protects current funding for York Hospital by exempting it from a proposed hospital rate reform.

The committee also approved a one-time $3 million in emergency funding for dairy farmers while moving L.D. 2188, a bill that would increase tier payments to dairy farmers by 25%, off the appropriations table.

Annie Watson, president of the Maine Dairy Industry Association, said in an email Monday that the association is grateful for the committee’s reconsideration of the tier payments after an earlier proposal would have resulted in only a 10% increase.

“Our dairy farms are an integral part of our state’s agricultural economy and this investment will flow directly into our rural communities,” Watson said. “Protecting our food supply and the numerous acres of land in agricultural production is one way we are collectively investing in the future of our great state, and helping to secure the resilience of Maine’s people.

Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, Senate chair of the committee, said after the committee’s meeting Monday that the committee did not yet have a total spending number for the package, but staff were working to prepare it based off several amendments that passed.


Democratic leaders in the House lauded the proposal.

“The appropriations committee works hard, dealing with some of  the most complex issues facing our state. They have done tremendous work,” said House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland.

“Despite earlier, good-faith efforts to develop a budget that could earn consensus support, we recognized that we needed to take another look and reconsider our approach. Over the past week, we have done just that – and today the committee voted out a budget that delivers for Mainers and deserves broad-based support.”

A spokesperson for Senate President Troy Jackson did not respond to a phone message or email seeking his reaction to the proposal.


Ben Goodman, a spokesperson for Gov. Janet Mills, said in a statement that the governor welcomes many of the committee’s changes, including support for dairy farmers, restoring money to the highway fund and reversing the roll back of pension benefits, though she remains concerned about added spending beyond what she proposed in her change package.


“At this point, though, the supplemental budget as approved by the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee today is not at risk of a veto by the governor,” Goodman said. “She hopes the Legislature will not amend the package passed by the committee in any significant way because doing so would increase the likelihood of a veto.”

The bill would need two-thirds support in each chamber in order to be enacted as an emergency measure and take effect immediately if Mills signs it, though it’s unclear if it will have enough Republican support to meet that threshold.

Republicans on the committee on Monday supported a different amended version of the bill. Rep. Jack Ducharme, R-Madison, a member of the committee, said there are a number of differences in the two proposals, including a $4 million increase in emergency funding for dairy farmers in the minority proposal.

It does not include funding for an Office of New Americans, as the majority proposal does, and includes differences in the amount of funding for various housing proposals. Ducharme said the minority report also includes additional funding for 32 Maine State Police troopers to bolster rural patrols, while the majority report includes half that number.

And the proposal calls for drawing $60 million in storm damage and flood relief funding from unallocated surplus, rather than budget stabilization funds that would be the source of the relief funds under a separate bill.

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