Negotiates $7.1 billion budget, largest investment in public education in Maine’s history

AUGUSTA – After a 3-day state shutdown due to House Republican obstruction, Speaker Sara Gideon succeeded in closing the 2017-2019 biennial budget. The budget makes significant investments in education, expands property tax relief for middle class Mainers and rejects devastating cuts to essential government services.

“This unnecessary shutdown needed to come to an end. Despite House Republicans throwing up roadblocks at every turn, we were able to close a budget that makes the largest investment in public education in our state’s history,” said Speaker Gideon. “But beyond that, this agreement protects Maine’s most vulnerable from devastating service cuts, invests in those that care for our seniors and Mainers with disabilities, helps fight increasing property taxes and makes a significant investment in workforce development. We did our job in the face of tremendous pressure and I urge the governor to make good on his word and to take action immediately.”

Beginning late Friday night, Governor Paul LePage demanded an ever-changing list of initiatives, many unrelated to the budget. Throughout the weekend, Speaker Gideon narrowed the list to one acceptable proposal, a removal of the 1.5% increase of the lodging tax – a tax proposal included in his original budget. In exchange, Gideon secured an increased investment in Head Start and a moratorium on behavioral health reimbursement rate cuts.

“Democrats negotiated the best possible deal for Mainers,” said Gideon. “We pledged to be the voice of the people in this budget debate and we never stopped fighting. This budget will increase education funding, lower property taxes, strengthen our economy and protect seniors and Mainers with disabilities.”

Topline Budget Details:

The final $7.103 biennial budget includes $162 million in direct classroom education funds for a total of $2.1 billion in education investment statewide. The agreement removes the 3 per cent surcharge for incomes over $200,000. This budget also secures a $14.25 million dollar investment to support direct care workers – those individuals who care for Mainers living with disabilities and our seniors.  The budget also makes a $10 million investment in the Maine Community College Systems Strategic Workforce Initiative, designed to give Mainers the skills and training necessary for immediate employment. Further details below.

Topline Budget Details:

  • Increases investment in Maine students, schools, and teachers and funds K-12 public education at $162 million
  • Bolsters property tax relief: Rejects an elimination of the Homestead exemption for most families, as originally proposed in Administration budget.
  • Direct Care Worker Investment: Secures $14.25m additional funding for the direct care workforce which serves seniors and Mainers with disabilities.
  • Invests in higher education: Provides operational funding for the University of Maine, keeping tuition affordable and higher education accessible
  • Supports job training: Funds the Maine Community College Systems Strategic Workforce Initiative at $10 million, designed to give Mainers the skills and training necessary for immediate employment.
  • Protects vital services: Rejects damaging cuts to Public Health Nurses and MaineCare
  • Protects investment in Head Start: Giving more young Mainers an opportunity to thrive as children, and later as productive adults.  
  • Improves disability services: Doubles the number of Mainers who can receive services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities under the Section 29 waiver.
  • Funds Rural Hospitals: Rejects cuts to reimbursement rates for Critical Access Hospitals who serve most of Maine’s uninsured throughout the state. This ensures that Critical Access Hospitals will continue to be reimbursed at a higher rate for the work they do and the people they serve.
  • Blocks devastating cuts to behavioral healthcare: establishes a moratorium on reimbursement rate cuts for behavioral healthcare services. Without the moratorium, cuts would have decimated group homes, healthcare providers and vulnerable Mainers who depend on their services.