Two weeks ago, the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs decided the budget for the upcoming two years would be divided into two parts: a “continuing services” budget and a “supplementary budget.” The continuing services budget provides security and continuity to the state government’s core services like education and health care and allows legislators to take the time they need to consider which new priorities the state should pursue in the upcoming supplementary budget, which will be passed later in the session.
What is the continuing services budget?
Mainers cannot afford critical public services to suddenly go missing. The continuing services budget guarantees this worst-case scenario is not an option.
The continuing services budget was voted through committee two weeks ago and passed through the legislature on Thursday of last week. Unlike Governor Mills’ proposed budget, which was the previous basis for budget negotiations, the continuing services budget contains no new spending initiatives. This budget instead focuses on guaranteeing the funding Maine’s state government needs to continue providing services that help Mainers thrive.
The passage of the continuing services budget does not eliminate the possibility of further state funding in the upcoming biennium. Any new spending initiatives will be negotiated in a supplemental budget, which funds new programs on top of the existing continuing services budget and will likely be passed by the end of June.
Why is the continuing services budget necessary?
By passing the continuing services budget early, the legislature has ensured government services that support Maine’s collective wellbeing will continue uninterrupted while lawmakers negotiate which new initiatives will be included in the supplemental budget. This decision provides more time for discussions of which priorities are important to the health and prosperity of Maine communities. Without the continuing services budget in place, legislators could run the risk of a temporary government shutdown, threatening the stability of the state economy and wellbeing of many Mainers.
What is included in the continuing services budget?
While the continuing services budget contains no new initiatives, it does maintain funding for core services and honors commitments already agreed upon by previous legislatures, including:
- Funding 55 percent of the costs of public education and providing free school meals to every student
- Safeguarding the health of Maine communities by funding reimbursement and wage increases — passed in 2021 — for providers of behavioral health care, investing in the people who care for older Mainers, and services for Mainers with intellectual or developmental disabilities and behavioral health challenges
- Supplementing the wages of child care workers and making Maine’s criminal justice system fairer by increasing reimbursement rates for public defenders, of which the state has been experiencing a critical shortage
- Helping Mainers remain stably housed by funding the Property Tax Fairness Credit and the Homestead Exemption
Without the continuing services budget in place, many of the services Mainers need on a daily basis would be under threat. Municipalities would lose a critical source of funding from the state revenue sharing program. The workers who maintain our roads would be sent home in the event of a government shutdown, and the many social workers, public health providers, and state police officers would be similarly absent or face work without pay.
What’s next in the budget process?
Lawmakers have until the end of June to pass a supplemental budget that includes new investments in wellbeing and opportunity for Mainers. These supports could include providing free community college for recent graduates, implementing a state Paid Family and Medical Leave program, and supporting Maine families by increasing the state Child Tax Credit.
Passing the continuing services budget has taken some of the heat off the upcoming budget negotiations, allowing legislators to continue exploring the needs of Maine communities without the looming threat of government shutdown. Mainers can also rest a little easier knowing the services sustaining the physical and economic wellbeing of Maine communities will continue to provide critical support.