New state budget deal includes $ 300 payments to workers

AUGUSTA, Maine (WAGM) – Lawmakers in Maine have announced a bipartisan budget deal that focuses on a number of key topics.

The deal includes funding for seniors’ residences, 55% funding for public education, and risk payments of $ 300 to those who have worked throughout the pandemic.

The single payment will be based on the 2020 tax returns. Individuals earning $ 75,000 or less, or joint filers earning $ 150,000 or less will receive payment.

“You had to have filed a 2020 tax to get one. It’s revenue-based, but we all felt it would have been nice to go higher because of the cost of it, ”said President Senator Troy Jackson. “Anyone who worked and made less than $ 75,000 a year after filing taxes deserved help. ”

“For those who have come forward from the start, this additional payment has been a priority that we as Republicans have encouraged for these people,” said Senator Trey Stewart. “Sure, appreciate all the work they did to keep showing up during all of this.”

Jackson and Stewart both say agreeing on the content of this budget is necessary to get the job done for Mainers.

“This is an opportunity Republicans have jumped on to make sure things we care about can be included in this because it takes 2/3,” Senator Stewart said. “All of these things are essential for the people we represent, especially in rural communities who are mostly older people. So the fact that we had an opportunity and seized it, to make sure those priorities were included. ”

“Both sides put things in there that they liked. Both sides probably have things that are not as high priority for them, but it was a gift, ”Senator Jackson said. “I think there are good things all around and people should feel great that this is a real two-party budget that everyone knows will be better for the state of Maine. ”

The entire legislature is expected to vote on the draft budget at a hearing on Wednesday.

BUDGET LINES

KEEPING THE PROMISES TO REDUCE THE PROPERTY TAX

  • Restores revenue sharing: The budget respects the state’s commitment to our city, towns and municipalities by fully investing in revenue sharing by the end of the biennium. This influx of funds into local municipalities will help stabilize property taxes by shifting the cost of essential services to property taxpayers. The budget increases municipal revenue sharing from 3.75% to 4.5% in fiscal 22 and to 5% in fiscal 23.
  • Expands the property tax credit for equity to 83,000 homeowners: The budget improved the property tax fairness credit, offering a one-time increase in the maximum benefit from $ 750 to $ 12,000 for income-eligible families, and from $ 1,000 to $ 1,500 for families. the elderly. The budget permanently changes program eligibility to provide property tax relief or rent relief to 83,000 Mainers.
  • Strengthens the family property exemption program: In the biennial budget passed by the legislature in March, lawmakers expanded Homestead’s property tax exemption, allowing Mainers to reduce the value of their homes by $ 25,000 and pay property taxes only on the amount remaining through Homestead’s exemption program. Under the current program, municipalities are reimbursed by the state only at 70% of the cost. This limits the impact of the programs on property tax relief. This budget increases reimbursement by 3% each year until the state fully reimburses municipalities to cover the full costs of the program.

SUPPORTING STUDENTS, TEACHERS AND SCHOOLS

  • Makes historic investments in public education: The budget fulfills the state’s commitment to schools, municipalities and teachers in Maine by funding 55% of the costs of K-12 public education, as set out in the law. This is the first time Maine has reached the 55% threshold since voters in Maine passed a referendum in 2004 demanding that the state contribute 55% of funding for K-12 public schools.
  • Supports school capital improvement projects: The budget also adds $ 45 million to the School Renovation Revolving Fund so that schools can afford essential health, safety and capital improvements. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed areas that need to be fixed in schools across the state. These funds will support these repair projects and others to protect the health and safety of teachers, students and school support staff in Maine.
  • Supports higher education: The budget invests in the University of Maine system, the Maine Community College system and the Maine Maritime Academy. It provides for a 3% funding adjustment each year to avoid increases in tuition fees at each of the institutions, making it easier for Mainers to access workforce training and higher education. .
  • Satisfies student hunger: The budget would make the school breakfast and national school lunch programs available free to all students in Maine. Research has indicated that many food insecure families are not eligible for school meals under current eligibility criteria. With the expected increase in the number of students who may be eligible for school meals as a result of the pandemic, this will ensure that no student goes to school hungry.
  • Invests in training Maine’s workforce through vocational and technical training (CTE): Maine has not updated the equipment and capital improvements needed since 1997. The budget will support these improvements at CTE schools in Maine so that students have access to the technology and tools they need to learn about today’s economy.

SUPPORT DIRECT CARE STAFF, SENIORS AND NOW VULNERABLE

  • Supports residences for the elderly: The budget includes critical funding to maintain the emergency rate increases that support nursing facilities and the hardworking professionals who care for residents. Nursing homes and retirement homes in Maine have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds will help institutions continue to operate and care for our loved ones.
  • Supports all direct care workers: The budget increases MaineCare wage rates for direct care workers to 125 percent of the minimum wage. Direct caregivers provide quality, compassionate and personalized care to the residents they care for. Paying direct care workers a living and living wage recognizes the importance of their work and will help attract and retain quality professionals in this vital field.
  • Supports Mainers with intellectual disabilities: The budget funds an increase in tariffs to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities can access adequate services.
  • Funds preventive dental care: This will expand access to preventive dental care to approximately 217,000 Mainers while saving the state from costly emergency room visits, thereby reducing health care costs statewide.
  • Investing in the treatment of substance use disorders: The budget funds community treatment options and includes rate increases for supportive recovery services.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Provides Danger Bounties for Active Mainers: The budget provides for a one-time “risk payment” of $ 300 to Mainers earning $ 75,000 or less as an individual; $ 150,000 or less for joint filers. This will support the more than 500,000 Mainers who have worked under unprecedented and dangerous circumstances during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
  • Preserves and protects Maine’s natural resources: The budget includes $ 40 million for the Land for Maine’s Future program to scale up Maine’s land conservation efforts. In the aftermath of COVID-19, conservation areas across Maine have experienced unprecedented foot traffic. These funds will play a vital role in supporting Maine’s outdoor recreation and tourism economy. The budget also includes essential funds and 20 new DEP stations to clean up PFAS contamination.
  • Increases the fund on rainy days: The budget sets aside money for emergencies by adding a minimum of $ 60 million to the rainy day fund. That brings the total to $ 328.2 million, an all-time high. Over the past few years, lawmakers have made it a priority to responsibly set aside funds for emergency use during Maine’s economic downturn. The budget continues this trend.
  • Supports the work of the standing committee: The budget provides critical funding for the Standing Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Tribal Populations of Maine to promote, implement and coordinate programs that create and enhance opportunities and incorporate the goal of eliminating disparities for women. historically disadvantaged racial, indigenous and tribal populations in the state.
  • Exempt the sale of menstrual products from sales tax: Maine will become the next state to abolish taxes on these sales to remove barriers to accessing necessary menstrual products.

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