Statement on supplemental budget

AUGUSTA, Maine — Garrett Martin, president & CEO at the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), released the following statement in reaction to the budget approved by Governor Mills yesterday afternoon:  

“Maine families and communities continue to face a number of challenges. The supplemental budget signed by Governor Mills helps address some of those by directing available funds to housing, nursing homes, mental health care, and storm relief. Still, many vital workers continue to be overlooked and underpaid and more needs to be done in the future to ensure that those who work in public service, education, childcare, and direct care are fairly compensated. Otherwise, we risk jeopardizing our state’s economic vitality and access to services that we are all likely to need at some point in our lives.  

MECEP commends the Legislature’s decision to protect funding for the Medicare Savings Program, childcare subsidies, and safety net programs. We also value the state’s continued commitment to funding K-12 education at the full 55%. The need for more affordable housing and shelter is acute in every county and community in Maine. Taking bold steps with short- and long-term housing solutions was the right thing to do, and we look forward to assessing the impact of the new rent relief pilot program to keep struggling Maine families in their homes.  

While final approval of the supplemental budget reflects a willingness to invest in Maine people and communities, there is one particular area where we can and should do better in the future. MECEP’s conversations with workers in recent years have consistently illustrated the urgent need for addressing pay gaps in public service and the chronic undervaluing of essential work, particularly in the sectors of education, childcare, and direct care. These care and education sectors underpin the entire state economy and have a direct impact on all Mainers’ ability to remain in the workforce. Paying barely more than minimum wage to the highly skilled people who care for and educate our children, our parents, and our loved ones with disabilities is a sad statement on how little value we put on that work and perpetuates a legacy of gender-based wage discrepancies. It also puts Mainers who rely on those services at risk.  

Maine has the capacity to address these needs in a fiscally responsible way. We can start by ensuring that wealthy people and corporations are paying their fair share: rolling back the harmful LePage tax cuts by creating high income tax brackets, ending wasteful corporate tax breaks and subsidies, and closing off loopholes and schemes corporations use to hide their income. There is no shortage of smart and fair revenue raising ideas. We urge all legislators to take a fresh look at them next session, so we can do even more to build a robust economy that lifts all Maine workers and families.”