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Maine lawmakers reach agreement on $850 budget surplus checks

Maine Legislature
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
State representatives take part a special session of the Legislature at the State House, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, in Augusta, Maine.

Lawmakers on the Maine Legislature's budget writing committee have reached an agreement on how to spend the state's estimated $1.3 billion surplus.

The unanimous vote early Friday morning includes Gov. Janet Mills' proposal to send half of the surplus back to Maine residents by way of $850 checks.

The payments are a key feature of the spending plan and have been framed by supporters as way to help Mainers absorb the soaring costs of goods, gas and heating prices.

The spending plan also includes the permanent expansion of the property tax fairness credit, a boost in the earned income tax credit, as well a trust fund to address PFAS contamination on Maine farms.

It also includes the governor's plan to provide free community college for high school students who graduate between 2020 and 2023.

The full Legislature is expected to vote on the budget next week before scheduled adjournment.