Governor Mills today proposed $126 million in additional state spending for the biennium, pushing the total increase in the current state budget to one billion dollars more than the prior budget.
The proposal grows state government by adding new positions to several departments and adding a new tax on streaming online videos.
While describing the package as “Rebuilding and investing in the state’s infrastructure” the package adds just $10 million in funding for transportation and dedicates much of that to climate change initiatives rather than roads and bridges.
During her State of the State Address, Governor Mills admonished the Legislature to just “fix the damn roads.” Today, she has chosen not to do that despite the record influx of revenues to state government this year.
According to Governor Mills, $464 million is needed in this biennium to repair Maine’s roads and bridges, even after the $105 million bond package passed last year.
By spending the entire current surplus of $126 million the governor has eliminated the possibility of using General Fund money to repair Maine’s roads and bridges at exactly the time when the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding is searching for a solution to the chronic underfunding.
Just two weeks ago, in her State of the State Address, Governor Mills had this to say:
“With a shortfall of as much as $232 million a year, it’s time to put our heads together and get creative. I want that Blue-Ribbon Commission to keep working on this for as long as it takes. I signed the Resolve that allows them to continue that work this morning. I’m not opposed to using some general fund dollars to improve our infrastructure.”
Senator Brad Farrin is the Republican lead on the Legislature’s Transportation Committee and the Blue Ribbon Commission. His statement:
“Members of both parties on the Blue Ribbon Commission have negotiated in good faith for months with the understanding that Governor Mills supported a substantial investment of General Fund dollars for our roads and bridge. Today, she proposed spending all available General Fund dollars on almost everything but our transportation infrastructure. Her proposal effectively destroys all of the efforts of this bipartisan commission before we could complete our work.”
Just two days after an agency in Farmingdale that cares for 600 senior citizens announced it is closing, Governor Mills proposed a supplemental budget that added no funding at all to nursing homes and senior care agencies.
Instead of fixing Maine roads and caring for seniors, Mills is proposing more funding for things like “Maine Career Exploration,” more tax collectors for the Maine Revenue Service, and an additional helicopter for the Forest Service.
Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake: “I have made caring for our elderly a priority for a long time and with nursing homes closing due to insufficient state funding, we are now seeing agencies that provide in-home health care fail for the same reason. We can add tax collectors and buy a fourth helicopter for $2.5 million when the three we already own are not fully used, but the governor will not make a priority out of caring for the people who raised and cared for us. I don’t know what else we can do to get the governor to prioritize senior citizens.”
Also, despite recent reports of an increase in overdose deaths, Mills’ proposal allocates nothing more to address the opioid crisis. Estimates show that 2019 saw around 369 overdose deaths. During her State of the State, Governor Mills acknowledged that Maine had another 880 fatal-level overdoses, saying “Narcan alone has saved 880 lives.” This brings the administration’s reported total of fatal-level overdoses to 1,249, nearly three and a half times last year’s total.
About the overall package, Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow, a small business owner, had this to say: “When the economy is good, you save up for times when it isn’t. With record revenues, this is not the time to borrow more money and expand the state’s $7.7 billion debt. The most recent revenue report from the State Controller shows that revenues are a mere .3% higher than the budgeted amount. Even a slight downturn in the economy would wipe out this tiny cushion.”