AUGUSTA, Maine — Mainers might have loads of questions over what’s included within the addition to a two-year state price range that lawmakers will doubtless approve after the Fourth of July.
The Appropriations and Monetary Affairs Committee superior almost unanimously the plan that features a number of amendments to the roughly $900 million bundle Gov. Janet Mills put ahead earlier this 12 months as an addition to the $9.9 billion state price range.
Whereas complete spending figures and all particulars have nonetheless not been launched, here’s a have a look at a number of key areas within the proposed addition to the spending plan.
High priorities for Democrats
Extra conservative Republicans will doubtless oppose the price range addition due largely to it together with high legislative priorities for Democrats, primarily a paid household and medical depart program. There’s additionally cash for a bipartisan plan to bolster the state’s youngster care system.
The price range panel authorized $25 million in start-up funding for the paid depart proposal from Assistant Senate Majority Chief Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, and Assistant Home Majority Chief Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston.
The plan underwent varied revisions to win assist from Mills. It permits staff in Maine to take as much as 12 weeks of paid depart and is funded by way of a 1 % payroll tax cut up between workers and employers, with carveouts for small companies.
The proposal additionally contains about $30 million a 12 months for a kid care overhaul proposed by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. Its key provisions embody doubling the month-to-month wage stipend for youngster care staff from $200 to $400 and growing youngster care subsidy earnings eligibility to households from 85 % to 125 % of the state’s median earnings.
The price range panel superior the spending addition with assist from all members however one after the inclusion of a pension deduction invoice helped draw most Republicans into the deal.
That invoice from Home Minority Chief Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, will constantly increase Maine’s pension deduction beginning in 2024 primarily based on the utmost Social Safety profit, after additionally elevating it this 12 months from $30,000 to $35,000. The estimated price of implementing the change is about $14.1 million within the 2023 fiscal 12 months earlier than rising to $48.4 million in 2026.
“That was the vital piece, when the Democrats accepted notably the pension deduction at that larger stage,” Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, a price range panel member, stated.
One other key initiative included within the price range addition is a change to a preferred however criticized property tax freeze program for older Mainers. In 2022, the Legislature quietly authorized a measure from Senate Minority Chief Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, permitting many Mainers 65 years and older to have property taxes frozen on the earlier 12 months’s stage.
No limits are positioned on this system, taxes could be frozen if Mainers transfer right into a higher-priced group and the state pays cities and cities for the distinction. That prompted the dimensions and value of this system to develop annually.
The price range committee has moved forward with an answer proposed by Bennett. It can finish this system and as a substitute develop two present packages, each of which goal low-income seniors and comprise earnings and asset limits.
The price range panel additionally included an amended plan from Home Majority Chief Mo Terry, D-Gorham, that can improve Maine’s $300 youngster tax credit score primarily based on inflation. Progressive teams stated the proposal that may have initially raised the credit score to $350 would transfer about 3,500 youngsters out of poverty.
New enterprise tax breaks
The plan from Mills, a Democrat, to switch longstanding enterprise tax breaks with a extra beneficiant “Dirigo Enterprise Incentive” had bipartisan assist and the backing of enterprise teams.
Beginning in 2025, the inducement will supply $2,000 per employee to companies that prepare three or extra staff for at the very least 20 hours in authorized packages. It additionally affords 10 % credit for capital investments in all counties besides York, Sagadahoc and Cumberland, which might qualify for five % credit.
The price range committee authorized a change to lower these credit from bigger charges relative to what the governor initially proposed, with the adjustments anticipated to deliver down the price of the brand new program from almost $55 million to $41 million.
The brand new incentive represents a shift from Maine’s focus within the early 2000s of tamping down rural employment to a pandemic-era technique that entails the state incentivizing workforce coaching amid a labor scarcity prompted largely by a wave of older staff retiring.
One of many teams not in favor of the Dirigo Enterprise Incentive is the liberal Maine Heart for Financial Coverage, which argued it is going to primarily profit giant companies and is “the identical sort of flawed tax giveaway program” that didn’t work previously.
What’s not included
Bipartisan offers by no means absolutely please everybody. That is no exception.
Ducharme, who opposed the addition for quite a few causes, noticed his invoice to decrease the speed on Maine’s lowest earnings tax bracket from 5.8 % to 4.5 % fail this session. One other proposal from Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor, to decrease varied earnings tax charges died as effectively.
Different proposals nonetheless awaiting votes within the Legislature might run out of steam, because the price range presently leaves them out.
These embody a invoice from Rep. Ben Collings, D-Portland, to lift the state’s $13.80 minimal wage to $15 beginning in 2024, with an annual cost-of-living improve, and a renewed try from Sen. Jill Duson, D-Portland, to ban flavored tobacco gross sales in Maine, though Duson stated final week that she remains to be taking a look at methods to enact it.
Small steps on Maine’s massive points
Lastly, the price range addition takes extra incremental steps to sort out a few of Maine’s greatest points, with last particulars and prices nonetheless not accessible.
The price range establishes a statewide Housing First program that gives on-site sources to Mainers with psychological well being and substance use issues as a part of an initiative that touches on the state’s housing affordability and opioid crises. It additionally has $1.5 million to construct further rural habit restoration housing for households.
Mills additionally provided $31 million to create grants for Maine-based emergency medical providers all through a state that has many rural areas missing fast entry to assist.