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$850 checks remain part of Janet Mills' larger supplemental budget after Republican proposal fails

The Maine State House is seen at sunrise, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
The Maine State House is seen at sunrise, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

Republicans in the Legislature are backing Gov. Janet Mills' plan to spend more than half of the state's projected surplus on inflation relief payments to Mainers, but their efforts to separate the payments from a larger spending plan have been rebuffed.

Last week Republicans on the budget writing committee proposed quickly passing the governor's updated plan to provide $850 checks to roughly 800,000 Mainers, a departure from their previous calls to pass an income tax cut instead.

Majority Democrats tabled the proposal, and for now, the direct payments remain part of the governor's overall plan to change the state's two-year budget, which includes investments in education, health care and child care.

The debate has since shifted to the payment method, with some Republicans calling for electronic transfers, but that idea is confronted by some logistical challenges.

According to the state budget office, roughly half of the Mainers eligible don't have bank routing information on file with the state.

The governor's budget office has said it hopes mailed checks will be issued no later than the end of June.

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