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Maine Democrats Use Majority To Pass $1B Plan For Spending Federal Aid

The Maine State House is seen at sunrise, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
Maine Gov. Janet Mills speaks to reporters in her cabinet room, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Augusta, Maine, after announcing she has vetoed a bill to replace the state's privately owned electric utilities with a consumer-owned utility.

Without Republican support, Democrats in the Maine Legislature have approved an initiative to spend $1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan funds.

Republicans have opposed labor agreements connected to roughly $20 million for affordable housing projects and have also wanted more money for the state’s unemployment trust fund to offset possible rate increases for businesses that laid off workers during the pandemic.

The proposal largely aligns with the plan that Democratic Gov. Janet Mills introduced this spring, but the governor last week called upon lawmakers to reach a bipartisan agreement so that it would pass as an emergency and allow the state to dispense the money more quickly.

Mills signed the bill Monday night after lamenting the absence of a bipartisan supermajority and the subsequent delay to spend the federal money.

“Despite my disappointment over the delay in these investments and the unnecessarily partisan votes on the bill, I am pleased that the Legislature, both Democrats and Republicans, agreed on the vast majority of the important measures in this bill and, like them, I am pleased to see it become law,” she said in a statement.

The absence of a supermajority means the spending plan won't go into effect for 90 days.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.