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Mills signs the $1.2 billion spending plan

mills signs spending plan.jpg
Steve Mistler
/
Maine Public
Gov. Janet Mills signed the $1.2 billion spending plan on April 20, 2022. Nearly 60% of the surplus money is headed to Maine tax filers by way of direct payments. Mills called it one of the most aggressive pandemic and inflation relief plans in the U.S.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills Wednesday signed into law the $1.2 billion plan to spend the state's budget surplus.

The spending plan contains a slew of investments in public education, workforce development and incentives to beef up the state's depleted childcare workforce.

But it's key feature allocates more than half of the surplus on $850 direct payments to roughly 850,000 Maine tax filers.

During a signing ceremony with Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the State House Hall of Flags on Wednesday, Mills described the payments as aggressive pandemic and inflation relief for the people of Maine.

"This represents one of the strongest, if not the strongest, relief proposals in the country," she said. "And I've directed my Department of Administrative and Financial Services to get these payments out the door as soon as they can, and we're hoping to have the first checks out the door by the beginning of June."

At least a dozen states have returned budget surpluses to residents by way of tax rebates or direct payments.

Others have contemplated tax cuts, although opponents have warned against spending one-time money on permanent tax reductions.

The surplus in Maine has been driven by better than expected revenue collections and federal pandemic aid.

While some progressive groups have criticized the direct payments as a missed opportunity to invest in government programs, Mills has said they're needed to help Mainers with the rising costs of goods, gas and heating.

The governor has also said that many Mainers may not be feeling the economic recovery even though the state's unemployment rate and GDP growth have largely returned to pre-pandemic levels.