AUGUSTA — Local legislators are giving preliminary support to Gov. Janet Mills’ proposed two-year budget of $10.3 billion.

The budget proposes a 9.6 percent increase in state spending over the next two years (July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2025) compared to the current two-year state budget.

Mills has proposed the use of $900 million in additional spending to continue support for public education, pre-kindergarten programs and free community college tuition, and expand investments in behavioral health, child welfare, and services for older Mainers and people with disabilities, among other priorities.

The increase is based on projected growth in state revenues and would not require tax increases or use of the state’s reserves, or rainy day fund, according to the Mills administration.

“If we want to build a stronger, more prosperous state where opportunity is available to all, then we must invest in the infrastructure that supports our greatest asset: the people of Maine,” Gov. Mills stated in a news release. “From education at every level, to stable housing, to our health care system, to our transportation system, this budget proposal aims to strengthen what Maine people rely on every day to succeed — all while not raising taxes, living within our means, and protecting us against the possibility of a recession. Every budget I have offered has sought to give Maine people the tools and resources they need in a fiscally responsible manner, and this budget is no exception.”

Rep. Valli Geiger, D-Rockland, said she had just started to dig into the governor’s budget.

“There is a lot to like: keeping education funding at 55% and municipal revenue sharing at 5%, expanding childcare and early childhood education monies,” Rep. Geiger said.

The second-term Rockland representative also cited support for attention to juvenile mental health services. She said that mental health issue underlies “so much of what creates the crisis in Juvenile justice.”

“Many of these children have had trauma filled young lives and we know that has effects on the developing brain which can be healed but takes dedicated, long-term treatment to do so. Maine needs to really focus on preventing early childhood trauma to begin with. Stable housing, a living wage, access to quality, affordable childcare, access to timely quality healthcare and mental health/substance abuse treatment all makes it less likely a childhood experiences neglect, abuse and trauma in their families,” she said.

Geiger said the state has a lot of issues that threaten its ability to grow and thrive: developing a labor force, finding housing for said labor force, finding affordable, accessible childcare so parents can work knowing their children are safe and well cared for, and dealing with climate change and all it entails, including rising sea levels.

“We provided an emergency short term fix to provide Mainers with heating assistance, but that hugely expensive package did nothing to create lasting change. Maine people need weatherization to use less energy for heat and a transition for heating oil, which is so volatile on the global market,” Geiger said.

“Lastly, as Rockland knows all too well, we have gaps in how DHHS and the Department of Corrections deals with at risk juveniles. There is a prison for dangerous juveniles who have committed felonies (Long Creek) but then nothing for juveniles committing repeated misdemeanors, for those who may be homeless or running away from foster homes.

None of these things will be inexpensive to fix but are imperative for the state to attend to,” Geiger concluded.

Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, said “The Governor’s proposed budget is a good starting place as it supports working families through strengthening child care, funds education initiatives (including free school meals and expanding pre-K) invests in behavioral health and property tax relief, and addresses indigent legal services, climate action and fighting PFAS. Also important to our area is the proposal to allocate $30 million to expand affordable rental housing options for workers and their families. As the emails in my inbox make abundantly clear, we need safe and affordable workforce housing here in the Midcoast and I am looking forward to getting more details on that aspect of the budget as well as making sure my constituents’ priorities are reflected in other areas.”

Rep. Bill Pluecker, an independent from Warren said, “My analysis of the budget has only just begun, but I am very pleased that there has been included in this budget a line item of $600,000 supporting Maine farmers who sell to SNAP recipients. Thus investment is matched by federal funds and then once again matched by SNAP funds and must be spent on local fruits and vegetables grown here in Maine. At this level of funding, this line item represents approximately $1.5 million in sales from local farms. I’m especially pleased about this being in the governor’s budget because this is a fund that was dreamt up around my kitchen table four years ago and that I have been working for with a coalition of other advocates such as Maine Federation of Farmers Markets, Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association, Maine Farmland Trust, and Good Shepherd Food Bank. I’m proud to know this program will help so many farms to feed so many people fresh, healthy local fruits and vegetables.”

State Sen. Anne “Pinny” Beebe-Center, D-Rockland, said she was still going through the budget.

The budget will go through Legislative review and requires a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to take effect by July 1. The other option would be to approve with a simple majority — which takes 90 days from adjournment for it to take effect — and adjourn 90 days before July 1. The first session of a Legislature generally runs into June.

Legislators were emailed early Thursday morning, Jan. 12 for their comments on the budget. Other local legislators did not respond by late Friday morning.