Budgets are not everyone's cup of tea. But for those who want to know a bit more about Maine's current proposed supplemental budget, I've included some information below. First, a supplemental budget is a revision to the budget passed last year that make some changes in income and spending in order to make sure the budget is balanced at the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2021). A balanced budget is required by our Constitution.
So the Appropriations Committee has made such adjustments and following is a description of many of those changes, compliments of my friend and fellow State Representative Rebecca Millett.
"Budgets are about priorities. Last week, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee passed a supplemental budget that targets relief where it’s most needed. Under this budget, 100% of Maine’s businesses do not pay any state tax on Paycheck Protection Program loans. Mainers who lost their jobs because of the pandemic will not pay tax on unemployment benefits. And the budget helps many direct care service providers who were ineligible to receive federal financial relief, state relief or other relief during the pandemic and yet have been invaluable to our older Mainers and Mainer with disabilities. In passing this budget, my democratic colleagues rejected a number of last-minute inexplicable tax code changes proposed by Republicans for pre-pandemic expenses that have no direct positive impact on Mainers' lives. By introducing this late demand, after days of negotiating and Democrats compromising, Republicans are manufacturing an unnecessary crisis that delays relief for Maine’s businesses and families as well as clarity for Maine’s tax filings. We negotiated in good faith and it’s time for the Republicans to do the same.
Here is a summary of what is in the supplemental budget:
Critical relief for 160,000 Mainers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic: The supplemental budget includes $47M to exempt unemployment benefits from state income taxes. Without this relief, Mainers who relied on unemployment benefits at some point during the pandemic would’ve been hit with $200-$500 per person in state taxes.
Support for Maine businesses: The supplemental budget allocates $100M to exempt Maine businesses who accessed relief through the Paycheck Protection Program from state income taxes. This relief would support more than 28,000 businesses across the state.
Targeted-relief to direct care service providers and nonprofit providers: The supplemental budget proposal provides $30M in state and federal money to direct care worker providers and nonprofit providers that did not get PPP funds, state grants or any other relief and have struggled to meet the needs of Maine people, especially as COVID-19-related mental health concerns increase. These funds target people who provide support through MaineCare sections 18, 20, 21, 29, 17, 28 and 65. The state will cover $10M of the funds and receive $20M in matching federal funds.
Supports the Early College Aspirations program for working-class Mainers: The Aspirations Program provides eligible Maine high school students with an opportunity to receive academic credits toward a high school diploma, and an associate or baccalaureate-level degree, through enrollment and successful completion of college-level courses at approved Maine institutions. Through the pandemic, so many students took advantage of this program to get a leg up while extracurriculars were suspended, that it needed additional funding to cover so many more students.
The Legislature is convening this Wednesday and Thursday to vote on the budget and take up other legislative matters. We don't have to agree on everything in the Legislature. But we are required by the Constitution to balance our budget. Passing a budget requires the two-thirds support of both chambers in the Legislature. That means Republicans have the power to withhold their votes and prevent the budget from passing. That kind of obstruction serves no one. The people of Maine will suffer if we don’t pass this budget."