Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday formally unveiled a supplemental budget that returns half of a projected $822 million surplus to residents while boosting the rainy day fund to $500 million and providing another $100 million to fix highways and bridges.
Mills, a Democrat, said she drew on good ideas from both political parties in addressing pressing concerns like the impact of inflation on Mainers’ pocketbooks through $500 checks to 800,000 taxpayers.
The governor said she made use mostly of one-time initiatives rather than ongoing spending because of uncertainty about future revenue because of questions about the pandemic, inflation and federal spending.
The cornerstone of her supplemental budget, which tracks goals outlined in the governor’s State of the State address last week, is the proposal to provide half the surplus — $411 million — back to residents.
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On education, she proposed $20 million to provide free community college for all students from the high school graduating classes of 2020 through 2023, while boosting higher education spending so the University of Maine System can keep tuition flat for Maine residents.
Her budget also would fully fund free lunch school meals and increase pay for child care workers and early childhood educators.
On health care, she proposes spending $30 million to increase MaineCare rates, providing an additional $50 million for hospitals and nursing homes during the pandemic. She also would provide $8 million to improve the state’s child welfare system.