As the clock struck midnight on Tuesday, July 4, we were in the final stages of passing Maine’s biennial budget. This ended our three-day government shutdown.
It was no small feat to reach an agreement due to our divided government and I was proud to vote for a budget that ended the government shutdown and ultimately garnered a unanimous vote in the Senate and just two dissenting votes in the House.
This budget was not everything I hoped for, but it includes a record amount of education funding and works to increase jobs in Maine, reduce property taxes and protect our rural communities.
Through compromise, we eliminated the three percent surtax but were able to get an additional $162 million in K-12 education funding. We would not have been able to successfully negotiate and get this funding into the budget if Maine voters hadn’t said that they wanted the state to better fund our education system. We heard you.
This means that our school district, RSU 14, will get $664,219.42 more in school funding than what was proposed in the governor's original budget. This is huge for Windham and will benefit property taxpayers, our students and classrooms.
Education funding isn’t the only victory in this budget. We preserved the expansion of the Homestead Exemption that we had passed in the previous biennial budget. We also rejected the proposed cuts to the program for people under 65. This protects Maine property taxpayers.
Through negotiations, we were able to secure $1.15 million for Head Start and we implemented a two-year moratorium on additional reimbursement rate cuts for a behavioral health MaineCare program. Both of these items will help some of Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.
Our budget also makes investments in our career centers, community colleges and the University of Maine System. By funding these programs and schools we ensure that Maine’s workforce has access to job training and higher education. This strengthens our economy, creating a better life for all Mainers.
This budget also invests in better care for our seniors and Mainers with disabilities for the first time in over a decade, which I was very proud to vote for. Our budget also provides additional funds to our rural hospitals. Maine’s rural hospitals provide critical services to thousands of Mainers, and without this investment many hospitals could have faced closure.
As I said, this budget isn’t perfect. But ultimately it was something I could support in order to help move Maine forward.
My colleagues and I fought hard for Maine people and I think this budget reflects that. With record education funding, preserving the Homestead Exemption, investing in workforce trainings and higher education and protecting Maine’s most vulnerable citizens, we created a budget that works for Maine families.
If you have any questions about the budget or anything regarding state government, please feel free to write to me at 166 Albion Road in Windham, call me at 892-6591 or email anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep. Mark Bryant serves in the Maine House and represents part of Windham. He serves on the Committee on State and Local Government and the Committee on Transportation.