House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross presides over the House on Wednesday at the State House. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

AUGUSTA — The Maine Legislature agreed to a $430 million supplemental budget proposal in the early hours of Thursday morning that includes $60 million in relief for damage caused by winter storms.

The House of Representatives approved the budget on a 75-63 vote just after 4 a.m. Thursday. The Senate soon followed with a 19-14 vote. The decision came after an all-night debate in the final hours of this year’s legislative session.

Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement Thursday morning that she plans to sign the budget into law.

“I am pleased that the Legislature has passed the supplemental budget and the $60 million in storm relief I requested,” Mills said. “The budget makes balanced investments in child care, child protection, nursing homes, housing, public safety and other vital needs that will improve the lives of Maine people.

“Importantly, it also includes critical relief for Maine communities recovering from the severe storms in December and January – relief that I am directing my administration to begin distributing as soon as is statutorily possible.”

Because the proposal passed with only a simple majority and not as an emergency measure with two-thirds support in the Legislature, the storm funding will become available 90 days following the adjournment of the Legislature.


The Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund will distribute $50 million in grants, and the Department of Economic and Community Development will allocate $10 million to small businesses.

“While I am disappointed this crucial bill got caught up in last-minute budget politics, my administration will take every necessary step to get the money out the door as soon as it becomes available,” Mills said.

The budget approval came early Thursday morning in the final hours of this year’s legislative session and followed a back-and-forth between the House and Senate. The final votes were along party lines, with Democrats voting in support and Republicans opposed.

Debate over the budget flared up in the final days of the session after Democrats on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee made a series of controversial changes in a late-night meeting that included taking money out of Maine’s highway fund and rolling back income tax relief for pensioners.

Those changes were ultimately taken out by the committee, but another conflict arose when a bipartisan group of senators amended a $60 million storm relief bill the governor had proposed by adding raises for education techs, new behavioral health programs, and higher, non-lapsing funding for nursing homes and veterans homes. They said it was an attempt to secure the two-thirds majority support needed to implement the storm relief bill immediately.

On Wednesday, Mills sent a strongly worded letter to lawmakers saying she would veto the storm bill if it arrived at her desk amended, drawing backlash from lawmakers on the Senate floor. Mills said the amendment didn’t fit with the supplemental budget proposal and entangled ongoing, unrelated funding with the storm bill.


“This reads like a letter from Vladimir Putin to his Duma rather than an executive who is charged with executing the laws of a state and respecting the independent branch of government that the Legislature is,” said Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, who championed the amendment.

“What have we been reduced to in this Senate, in this Legislature, where we adopt whatever the administration wants?” he asked.

The Senate made another attempt Wednesday night to get funding for additional priorities with an amendment to the budget from Sen. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, that included mental health, state reimbursements for veterans homes, an increase in salaries for ed techs and school support staff beyond what is in the budget that passed, and recruitment and retention incentives for state workers.

The Senate approved the amendment in a bipartisan vote but it was later dropped in favor of the version of the budget adopted by the House.

The $430 million total includes about $302 million in one-time expenses, which includes the storm relief, and another $127 million in general fund appropriations for the remainder of the biennium. It adds to the current $10.34 billion biennial state budget.

Other items included in the final budget are: $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.

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