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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s very exciting,” said Laurie Foy, the longtime manager of the Liberty Graphics retail outlet in downtown Liberty, who recently became one of the store’s owners as part of a worker-owned cooperative. “I think it feels freeing, in a way, once you become an owner of something. We now steer our own ship.”
What we’re watching today
Federal aid has put Maine in position to push toward long-unmet education and municipal funding goals with a tricky budget deal ahead. It has been a see-sawing tenure for Gov. Janet Mills, who was thrown from good economic times into a pandemic that threatened state finances for years to come. She and virtually all other governors have now been bailed out to a degree with billions of dollars in federal stimulus aid.
Maine is now expected to see $920 million more than previously expected in revenue over the next two years, which put Mills in a position to add more to the $8.3 billion budget that Democrats pushed through over Republican opposition in March. She will release her plan ahead of a 1 p.m. news conference on Wednesday.
The Democratic governor has said her new package will focus on health care and education, as she placed economic development items and infrastructure spending in her plan for a separate pool of $1.1 billion in direct stimulus aid. Schools have a never-met statutory funding goal of 55 percent of essential costs that would cost an estimated $107 million more per year to meet.
The direct stimulus money cannot be used to lower taxes. The state surplus can, however. The partisan tension is now going to be around how much is spent, given back to Mainers or saved. Minority Republicans in the Legislature have prioritized income tax cuts and property tax relief by increasing the Homestead Exemption and raising municipal aid from 3.75 percent to the long-unmet goal of 5 percent of income, sales and service provider taxes.
If those education and municipal aid goals are ever going to be met, you would think it would be now with the influx of money. But Democrats are pushing other goals such as child care programs that could conflict with Republicans’ calls for items including income tax cuts. A bipartisan deal looks to be what everyone is driving toward now, but it will be tricky.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Former cop accused twice of intimidation now works at Maine’s controversial intelligence center,” Callie Ferguson, Bangor Daily News: “Lewiston police did not publicly disclose any information about the circumstances leading to [James] Minkowsky’s departure, only announcing his resignation after 25 years of service in a press release. About two months before he left, Minkowsky reached a separation agreement with the city that, among other terms, prohibited him from discussing it publicly. He resigned the day he became eligible for his retirement benefits.”
— “Maine races to vaccinate kids 12 and older before school breaks for summer,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The rollout for children in Maine will be more institutional than it has been so far as some schools coordinate with providers to deliver shots directly. Supply is not a problem as uptake among adults has slowed, but similar access challenges may remain and the state faces a short timeframe to vaccinate children before the summer months.”
The state is now offering giveaways to adults who get their first vaccine dose before the end of the month. Gov. Janet Mills announced the initiative, which aims to push at least 70 percent of adults to get vaccinated and includes rewards such as L.L. Bean gift cards and Portland Sea Dogs tickets, during a virtual meeting with President Joe Biden on Tuesday. “My guess is that’s probably going to work,” the president said.
— “Maine money-in-politics overhaul targets direct donations from businesses,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “While the measure would sever direct links between corporate money in politics and state lawmakers, it may simply reshuffle how money enters races and has not encountered significant pushback from the state’s business community. No one testified against it at a public hearing in late April and it passed out of committee along party lines last week.”
Golden steps away from Washington with first child on the way
Maine’s 2nd District congressman is not returning to Washington this week as he and his wife are expecting the birth of their first child any day. In a statement Tuesday night, Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat currently serving in his second term, said he did not expect to cast votes remotely during his time away but “[looked] forward to being back at work in Washington as soon as my responsibilities to my family allow.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.
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