Mainers work hard: at our jobs, for our families and to support our communities. As a state legislator, I believe it is only fair that our state government works just as hard to ensure that Mainers have the tools they need to build financial security, give their children promising futures and retire with dignity.

It has been an honor to serve on the Legislature’s budget-writing committee over the last two years, and I am proud to share that the supplemental budget recently signed into law honors the hard work of everyday Mainers. We have put necessary resources into the services that provide our residents with the support they need, when they need it. The budget also makes critical investments in our state’s future by investing in our youth and honors our older residents by improving their retirement benefits. Moreover, I am proud to share that we passed this budget with overwhelming bipartisan support.

To help with the rising cost of living, we are bringing immediate relief to working families. The supplemental budget increases the value of Maine’s earned income tax credit by an average of $400 per family, which is estimated to provide relief to 100,000 families, primarily households with incomes of less than $57,414. The budget also provides substantial property tax relief to Mainers by increasing the maximum benefit of the property tax fairness credit. Those who pay more than 4 percent of their household budgets in property taxes or rent will be eligible to receive a refundable tax credit of up to $1,000 per year, and seniors will be eligible to receive $1,500.

We also funded efforts to move Maine toward adopting a paid leave program. When babies are born, older parents need assistance or a family member falls sick, Maine workers deserve to be able to take time off without financial penalty. As the House chair of the Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program, I am proud that the recent budget funds our efforts to continue developing policy recommendations to create a strong program for Maine workers. With this additional funding, I am hopeful our commission will be able to design a program that future lawmakers will be able to pass into law.

To support Maine’s future, we funded major efforts to uplift young people, stabilize school funding and make continuing education after high school more affordable. The supplemental budget provides two years of free community college to recent high school graduates; fully funds school meals; expands children’s health insurance to provide coverage to an additional 40,000 Maine kids; rebuilds the school-based oral health program, and prevents tuition hikes across the University of Maine System.

To help Mainers retire with dignity, we funded measures to support their financial security. The budget exempts additional retirement pension from income tax, improving the deduction for retirees from $10,000 to $25,000 in the tax year 2022, to $30,000 in tax year 2023 and to $35,000 in tax years 2024 and beyond. This will provide retirees with an average tax cut of $560 in 2022, and by tax year 2025, the average cut will be approximately $795. We also bolstered retired public employees’ retirement benefits by improving their cost-of-living adjustments. This will help those who spent their lives serving others afford rising costs.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the supplemental budget invests in programs and services that Mainers need and deserve. From bringing Mainers financial relief to investing in education and retirement so our youngest and oldest residents can thrive, this budget will serve people in every corner of our state in the immediate future and in the years to come. It was my honor to work alongside my colleagues in the Legislature to develop this budget, and it was a privilege to play a role in bettering the lives of our state’s hardworking people.

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