Lawmakers should raise $400 million annually to invest in Maine’s future, says group representing workers, seniors, educators, immigrants, health care and direct service providers, and policy experts
AUGUSTA, MAINE — A diverse group of organizations is calling on the state Legislature to raise $400 million in new revenue to fund Maine’s COVID recovery and make new investments to help families, build strong communities, and support Maine’s economy in the long term.
The group includes 13 organizations representing health care and direct service providers, workers, seniors, educators, immigrants, and policy experts. On Monday, the organizations sent a letter to every member of the Legislature to draw attention to historic underinvestment that has held Maine back.
“Schools and communities have fallen behind as a result of underfunding from the state. Inequality has risen to unprecedented levels, with a small percentage of Maine households prospering greatly while an unconscionable number of families with low-to-moderate income struggle to pay for rent, food, health care, and child care,” the group wrote.
The letter provided detailed information about the scope of unmet need in education, local services, housing, hunger, health care, childcare, direct support for vulnerable people, state workforce, and infrastructure. Those unmet needs hold back the entire state, but Mainers of color face particularly large barriers to opportunity and prosperity as a result of underinvestment.
The groups wrote that Maine’s inadequate tax code is a root cause of the state’s inability to invest in its people.
“Even before the pandemic, existing revenue streams were inadequate to address Maine’s largest challenges,” they wrote. “Every budget cycle, the Legislature does what it can to ‘make do,’ but there’s never enough revenue to meet even basic commitments … Meanwhile, other legislation that would improve Mainers’ lives fail — not for lack of political support, but for a lack of funding.”
Maine’s lawmakers should commit to raising $400 million in new revenue annually, the groups said. While that amount would not meet all of Maine’s unmet needs, it would allow lawmakers to fully fund the state’s commitments to public schools and municipalities for the first time ever and leave roughly an additional $250 million available to meet other urgent needs.
The Legislature will consider several revenue-raising bills this session, including bills to more adequately tax high incomes; increase taxes on corporate profits over $3.5 million; close corporate tax loopholes, including the offshore tax haven loophole; and strengthen the state’s estate tax.
“We urge you to take this session as an opportunity to address not only Maine’s short-term COVID recovery, but to address long standing needs and build the foundation for a fairer, stronger economy. We are eager to support that work,” the group wrote.
Groups signing the letter include:
Behavioral Health Community Collaborative
Maine Center for Economic Policy
Maine Council on Aging
Maine Education Association
Maine Equal Justice
Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition
Maine People’s Alliance
Maine Service Employees Association – SEIU Local 1989
Maine Women’s Lobby
Mainers for Working Families
Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund
Southern Maine Workers’ Center