On June 30, the Senate passed an updated version of the two-year budget by 32-2, and the House passed it with a vote of 123-23.

Thanks largely to the incredible dedication and hard work of the Appropriations Committee and its staff, the budget received strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House. This budget helps us to achieve some tremendous things here in Maine. I’m thrilled to share the highlights with you.

This budget supports our kids. I’ve previously written about a bill I sponsored this session, LD 1114, “An Act to Require the State To Meet the Mandatory 55 Percent Contribution to Schools,” which was funded in this year’s budget.

Many years ago, Mainers passed a citizens’ referendum that required the state to cover the cost of 55% of essential services for our schools. This year we met the 55% threshold for the first time, and set ourselves up to continue this level of funding in future budgets as well. This is a historic milestone for our schools.

The budget also helps Maine students by funding a bill to make all school meals free, so no Maine student goes hungry.

This budget also does a great deal for our environment. We’re setting aside funds for the forest carbon mapping project to find areas with high potential for stored forest carbon. We’re also allocating $27 million and creating 20 new positions for the cleanup and identification of PFAS sites, including treatment of drinking water, environmental testing and management of contaminated areas.

PFAS is a “forever chemical.” That means that without remediation, it will permeate our natural resources and pose a threat both to the ecosystem and human health. This is a huge step for our environment. We’re also adding capacity to work on resiliency planning for sea-level rise.

Climate change is one of the largest concerns facing our future, especially as a coastal state, and investments are critical steps to preserving the Earth.

Another victory in Augusta with this budget was the major investments in Department of Health and Human Services initiatives, the majority of which will bring millions in matching federal funds. We secured $20 million for nursing home facilities, which will be matched at $70 million by the federal government.

We’re expanding MaineCare access to preventative and routine dental care for adults and offering MaineCare or CHIP for all Maine mothers and children. It’s been said repeatedly, but healthcare is a human right, and no one should ever have to be afraid or unable to go to the doctor, especially children.

Additionally, we’re funding several substance use disorder initiatives including the expansion of treatment beds, overdose prevention and help for parents with substance abuse disorder.

Finally, I want to talk a little about some of the changes we’re implementing with this budget that will help relieve pressure on property taxes. It increases the Homestead Exemption program reimbursement rate to 100% over the coming years. It also raises the rate of municipal revenue sharing from the current 3.75% to 4.5% in 2022 and 5% in 2023.

This is a major accomplishment after municipal revenue sharing got slashed under previous administrations. Revenue sharing is when the state returns a portion of its tax revenue to cities and towns to help fund essential services like schools and fire departments. By increasing the revenue sharing percentages we’re taking the responsibility off the property taxpayers.

I’m glad we can meet this milestone.

The budget also sets aside $150 million for a COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund. It’s been a tough year for a lot of us, and Maine workers with adjusted gross income under $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers will receive a $300 check per filer.

Additionally, it raises the amount of the earned income tax credit from 12 to 20% to match the federal percent. We’re trying to do what we can to help Mainers across the board, while supporting our communities and amazing initiatives at the state level.

These are just some of the highlights and barely scratch the surface of all the great work my colleagues and I have done this session. I’m satisfied with our budget, but more about how it was accomplished. Folks worked across the aisle together for the good of all Mainers. It was a display of bipartisan cooperation that doesn’t happen enough.

As always, if you have any questions about the budget, work in the State House, or if I can listen or lend assistance, feel free to reach out. Reach me at David.Miramant@legislature.maine.gov or call my office at 287-1515.