AUGUSTA, Maine — Garrett Martin, president & CEO at the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), released the following statement in reaction to Gov. Mills’ budget plan under consideration in the Maine Legislature:
“Thanks to federal relief funds, better than expected economic conditions, and effective efforts to limit the impacts of COVID-19 in Maine, the Mills administration has a unique opportunity to make sure all our neighbors — particularly people hit hardest by the pandemic and families struggling most with rising prices, housing affordability, child care access, and barriers to work — don’t continue to fall through the cracks.
In this key moment of historically robust revenue, we applaud the Mills administration for covering the last dollar of community college tuition, boosting wages for child care workers, providing free school meals for everyone, and maintaining the state’s commitment to fund 55% of education costs. This builds on last year’s historic investment in public education and roll back of cuts to public services made by the previous administration.
But for frontline retail workers struggling to make their next rent payment, young families unable to keep their jobs due to constant daycare and school interruptions, and older Mainers facing increasing costs, we can do better than a blind payment that goes to everyone regardless of their ability to weather the storm we’re in. At half the cost, we can lift up people who are falling behind while also making important investments in our communities.
Rather than issue blanket $500 checks to families that have likely seen their income grow during the pandemic, by boosting Maine’s sales tax fairness credit the same benefit could be provided more directly to those whose income hasn’t increased. Savings generated by this approach make it possible for the governor and legislature to address other shortcomings exposed by the pandemic and further strengthen Maine’s economy. Making a down payment on a paid family medical leave program would mean workers don’t have to choose between caring for a loved one and being able to keep their job. Additional savings can be used to further increase wages for care workers and prevent retired state employees and teachers from losing ground to inflation.
We look forward to learning more details about the governor’s supplemental budget proposal and to working with the administration and lawmakers. Together we can build a more equitable and inclusive economy that works for all Maine people.”