Democratic legislative leaders have reached an agreement on a number of key supplemental budget fixes, including restoring pension tax breaks for retirees and an increase in pay for education technicians.

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, met with Democratic leaders on Friday and reached consensus on several provisions, his office said Saturday.

The deal comes nearly a week after Democrats on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee voted to recommend a supplemental budget that removed $60 million from the state’s highway budget, rolled back tax relief for pensioners and reduced aid to dairy farmers.

The committee’s vote – taken at nearly 3 a.m. on April 6 and overriding the objections of Republican members – drew the ire of Gov. Janet Mills and prompted her to urge fellow Democrats to reconsider the “ill-advised” changes. Republicans criticized Democrats for making a significant change in the dark of night without public notice.

Jackson said the supplemental budget recommended by Democrats on the committee “makes a number of critical investments in our state from housing and maintaining the 55% threshold for public K-12 education funding to support for victims of mass violence events.”

“However, it’s clear that lawmakers must also keep our promises on tax breaks for retirees, dairy farmers and transportation,” he said in a statement Saturday. “In addition, we need to take steps to bolster retention and recruitment efforts for state workers, protect funding for York Hospital, and raise wages for education technicians and critical school support staff. There seems to be a consensus on a number of key issues and an agreement for them to be addressed as soon as possible.”


The provisions outlined by Jackson are expected to be taken up by the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee in the coming days.

They include fully restoring the pension tax break for retirees passed last July. This would increase the annual income tax deduction from $30,000 to $35,000 for all retired Maine residents and include language to increase the deduction to the equivalent of the maximum Social Security benefit in the following years.

Jackson said lawmakers will vote to increase support for dairy farmers to at least 25% of the newly identified cost of production, an initiative that received unanimous support from the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. It will benefit 146 dairy farms that participate in the program and 14,000 workers.

Lawmakers will have a chance to vote to increase wages for ed techs and support staff, and to support a new compensation and classification system that closes the state employee pay gap for executive branch workers.

Democratic leaders also reached consensus on protecting current funding for York Hospital. The hospital rate reform included in the current supplemental budget benefits most hospitals in the state but would result in the loss of critical funding for York Hospital. Lawmakers are expected to vote on language to ensure the hospital remains unharmed by rate reform and maintains its current funding level.

Lawmakers also will vote on whether to restore an agreement on roads and bridges that was recently altered in the supplemental budget. Last session, Democrats and Republicans worked together to find consistent funding for the chronically underfunded Highway Fund to ensure the safety of road and bridges, according to Jackson.

Mills presented two budget proposals this session in response to predictions from nonpartisan revenue forecasters that the state will take in $373 million more in tax revenue this year and next than originally anticipated. Her latest spending plan would increase the state budget to $10.41 billion, up from the current $10.3 billion.

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