Gov. Janet Mills blasted the actions of Democratic lawmakers on the budget-writing committee Wednesday after they ignored her administration’s warnings against increasing the state budget and instead advanced 80 additional spending bills for floor votes.

A written statement from Mills’ office accused the lawmakers of “employing budget gimmicks like stripping fiscal notes, delaying effective dates and raiding other special revenue accounts.”

Last week, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, announced that lawmakers would return to the State House on Friday not only to take up six bills vetoed by Mills as originally expected but also to consider advancing some of the 245 spending measures that had been approved by lawmakers but lacked funding needed to be sent to the governor for her signature.

Mills responded by urging lawmakers to “show fiscal restraint” and take up only her vetoes and avoid approving additional spending bills that would increase the state budget at a time when state economic forecasters are predicting flattening revenues and ongoing cost increases for existing programs.

The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee ignored that warning Tuesday and approved 80 additional spending bills. The total cost of the bills is not clear, with a House spokesperson saying the bills only totaled $10 million next year, while the governor’s spokesperson said the spending surpassed the $11.4 million in revenue that was left unallocated in the budget.

The bills brought forward by Democrats in the House totaled less than $4 million, said Mary-Erin Casale, the speaker’s spokesperson.


A spokesperson for Jackson did not respond to questions about the governor’s reaction or how much additional spending the Senate caucus supported.

Ahead of Tuesday’s budget committee meeting, lawmakers said Jackson and Talbot Ross approved $10 million for bills on the special appropriations table, with majority Democrats in the House and Senate getting $4 million each to spend and Republican caucuses getting $1 million each.

The state budget has been an ongoing point of contention between Mills and her fellow Democrats, who originally proposed using funding earmarked for highway projects to fund other priorities, before reversing course amid strong, bipartisan pushback. Mills also panned an unsuccessful last-minute attempt by the Senate to add what she said was more than $100 million to a storm relief bill the governor wanted passed quickly.

Mills spokesperson Ben Goodman said in an email that Mills was disappointed by the committee’s action, while suggesting that the governor is keeping an open mind about the bills that were advanced and would not automatically refuse to sign them. Mills “recognizes the value of the programs,” he said, but remains concerned about the sustainability of those investments.

“The governor’s office is reviewing the bills passed by the Appropriations Committee, but the governor is disappointed the committee chose not to heed her serious concerns about protecting the state’s long-term fiscal sustainability,” Goodman wrote.

“In fact, the committee appears to have done the exact opposite – spending beyond the $11.4 million available to them and then employing budget gimmicks like stripping fiscal notes, delaying effective dates and raiding other special revenue accounts to spend more, which the governor previously warned them not to do and which will push the state budget to the breaking point.”


Sharon Huntley, a spokesperson for the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which oversees the budget, said the administration is still calculating the additional spending – a process complicated by the fact that formal amendments and final recommended budget allocations are not yet posted online.

However, Huntley says it appears lawmakers approved $12.3 million in additional spending for the next fiscal year, while also recommending bills that would reduce revenue by about $900,000 next year and $3.5 million the next. She said it appears the committee recommends transferring another $3.7 million from special revenue accounts.

“The department estimates the total impact of these bills in the out years (FY 26-27) is $37.7 million,” Huntley said. “This cost increase is due to the other budget gimmicks that the governor warned the committee not to use – primarily pushing off effective dates so that costs are not actually incurred in this biennium, but in the next.”

The bills recommended for funding include more resources for teaching African American and Wabanaki studies in schools (though less than the original bill called for), establishing a civil rights unit in the Office of the Maine Attorney General and starting a system in the Department of Public Safety for tracking and storing forensic sexual assault kits.


House Democratic leaders issued statements on Wednesday applauding the committee’s actions, which also included funding for free health clinics (L.D. 1161).


“These investments will address immediate needs in our communities and represent careful consideration from legislators throughout the session,” Talbot Ross said. “By prioritizing initiatives that will improve health care, advance equitable outcomes and better educate our children, we are striving to create a Maine where everyone has a fair chance to thrive and succeed.”

House Majority Leader Mo Terry, D-Gorham, said the bills represented “targeted, limited investments that intend to balance addressing many of our state’s most pressing challenges while still protecting our long-term fiscal and economic health.”

Mills’ original supplemental budget proposal socked away $107 million in reserve accounts to help offset increased costs in the next two-year budget. But lawmakers changed the budget, spending $47 million of those reserve funds while setting aside $30 million each to pay for cost increases in the MaineCare program and to help the state continue meeting its obligation to pay 55% of public K-12 public education costs.

Kirsten Figueroa, commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, warned the budget-committee ahead of this week’s meeting that a 2.5% increase in MaineCare costs would surpass the reserve allocation and a proposal to make the state pay the cost of increasing the pay for ed techs and support staff could cost $20 million next year.

“Please know that if the Legislature continues to spend, the administration likely will be forced to produce a biennial budget that will cut the very vital programs that the Legislature agreed to fund in previous years – programs that Maine people have come to rely on,” Figueroa wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “We don’t want to do that, and we ask for your assistance.”

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