Historic Budget Signed by Governor Mills, Marking a Milestone for Maine
Governor Mills took a significant step forward today by signing a historic budget into law, a budget that encompasses a range of transformative measures aimed at improving the lives of Mainers. The budget includes provisions for a paid family and medical leave program, modernizes Maine’s business incentive program, reduces taxes for retirees, and makes substantial investments in housing, child care, health care, and education. Furthermore, the budget maintains Maine’s strong fiscal position, ensuring the stability of the state’s Budget Stabilization, or “Rainy Day,” Fund.
One of the key highlights of the budget is the establishment of a paid family and medical leave program. Through negotiations led by Governor Mills, the program offers increased flexibility for businesses and is supported by a one-time start-up funding of $25 million. By implementing this program, Maine becomes the 13th state to provide paid family and medical leave, with benefits becoming available from May 1, 2026.
In addition, the budget introduces the modernized Dirigo Business Incentive Program, replacing the outdated Pine Tree Development Zone program. This new program offers tax credits to businesses for worker training and capital investments, serving as a strategic approach to address Maine’s labor shortage and attract new businesses to the state.
The budget also includes historic investments in housing, addressing the needs of people experiencing chronic homelessness through the creation of the Housing First Program. This program focuses on individuals facing acute mental health and/or substance use disorders, providing them with stability and support. The budget allocates $70 million for the construction of affordable housing through the Rural Affordable Rental Housing Program and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. Moreover, it adds $12 million to the Emergency Housing Relief Fund, extending housing support to those in transitional housing and expanding assistance for shelters and homelessness initiatives.
Recognizing the importance of child care, the budget includes significant investments in this sector. It enhances the Maine Dependent Exemption Tax Credit, making it refundable and indexed to inflation. The eligibility for the child care affordability program is expanded, benefiting income-eligible working families. The budget also doubles the salary stipends for childcare workers, making it more financially viable for professionals to remain in the industry.
Education initiatives are another focal point of the budget. It allocates $15 million to continue offering up to two years of free community college education for high school graduates of 2024 and 2025 enrolling in Maine community colleges. Retired Maine residents receive an income tax break through an increased annual income tax pension deduction, linked to the maximum annual Social Security benefit.
Furthermore, the budget provides support for Maine State retirees, strengthens emergency medical services through the establishment of the Maine Emergency Medical Services Sustainability and Resiliency Grant Program, and enhances the delivery of legal services by funding additional trial court judgeships and supporting civil legal services through the Civil Legal Defense Fund.
Governor Mills expressed her appreciation for the collaborative efforts that shaped this budget, acknowledging the immense positive impact it will have on the lives of Maine residents. She urged Governor Evers to sign the budget without delay, allowing the funding increases to immediately benefit Northern Wisconsin.
Governor Mills and the Legislature have finalized an ambitious budget totaling $10.3 billion for the biennium, bolstered by the Emergency Winter Energy Relief Plan and previous relief measures that have returned a significant amount of money to Maine residents. The budget, which builds upon the current services budget that prioritizes education and revenue sharing, also includes substantial tax relief initiatives amounting to over $200 million per year.
The balanced budget reflects the state’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and adherence to the requirements outlined in the Maine Constitution. It will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns, ensuring a seamless transition into its implementation.
Thanks to Governor Mills’ leadership, the Budget Stabilization, or Rainy Day, Fund has reached a record high of over $900 million, nearly reaching its statutory maximum. This robust financial reserve, combined with the state’s strong credit ratings from Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings, demonstrates Maine’s solid fiscal standing and underscores confidence in the state’s financial management. Moody’s has affirmed its Aa2 rating and upgraded the outlook from stable to positive, while S&P has affirmed its AA rating with a stable outlook.
In addition to the budget, Governor Mills has also signed the Fiscal Year 2024-2025 Highway Fund Budget into law. This budget builds upon the administration’s commitment to investing in infrastructure and establishes a sustainable source of funding for transportation infrastructure repair. These investments will enhance the state’s transportation network and contribute to the overall economic growth and development of Maine.
The collective efforts to finalize the budget and highway fund budget represent a comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of Maine residents and ensuring the state’s long-term financial stability. Governor Mills and the Legislature remain dedicated to supporting the well-being and prosperity of all Mainers, making strategic investments in critical areas such as education, infrastructure, and relief measures to provide tangible benefits to individuals, families, and communities across the state.