Lewiston Rep. Cloutier: The state budget invests in programs and services hard-working Mainers deserve

Mainers works hard: at our jobs, for our families and to support our communities. As a state legislator, I think it’s only fair that our state government works just as hard to make sure the people of Maine have the tools they need to build financial security, give their children a bright future and retire with dignity.

It has been an honor to serve on the Legislature’s Budget Drafting Committee for the past two years, and I am proud to share that the recently enacted Supplementary Budget pays tribute to the hard work of everyday Mainers. We have invested the necessary resources in services that provide our residents with the support they need, when they need it. The budget also makes critical investments in the future of our state by investing in our youth and honoring our older residents by improving their retirement benefits. Furthermore, I am proud to share that we passed this budget with overwhelming bipartisan support.

To help with the rising cost of living, we are providing immediate relief to working families. The supplementary budget increases the value of Maine’s earned income tax credit by an average of $400 per family, which is expected to provide relief to 100,000 families, mostly households with incomes below $57,414. The budget also provides substantial property tax relief for Mainers by increasing the maximum benefit of the Equity Property Tax Credit. Those who pay more than 4% of their household budget in property taxes or rent will be eligible for a refundable tax credit of up to $1,000 per year, and seniors may receive $1,500.

We’ve also funded efforts to move Maine toward adopting a paid vacation program. When babies are born, older parents need help, or a family member falls ill, workers in Maine deserve to be able to take time off without financial penalty. As House Chair of the Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program, I am proud that the recent budget funds our efforts to continue to develop policy recommendations to create a strong program for working people. of Maine. With this additional funding, I hope our commission will be able to design a program that future legislators can adopt.

To support Maine’s future, we’ve funded major efforts to uplift young people, stabilize school funding, and make continuing education after high school more affordable. The supplementary budget provides two years of free community college for recent high school graduates; fully funds school meals; expands Children’s Health Insurance to provide coverage for 40,000 more Maine children; rebuilds the school-based oral health program and prevents tuition hikes in the University of Maine system.

To help Mainers retire with dignity, we have funded measures to support their financial security. The budget exempts the supplementary retirement pension from income tax, improving the deduction for retirees from $10,000 to $25,000 for the 2022 tax year, to $30,000 for the tax year 2023 and $35,000 for tax years 2024 and beyond. This will provide retirees with an average tax reduction of $560 in 2022, and by tax year 2025 the average reduction will be approximately $795. We have also strengthened pension benefits for retired civil servants by improving their cost-of-living adjustments. This will help those who have spent their lives serving others to cope with rising costs.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the supplemental budget invests in the programs and services Mainers need and deserve. From providing financial assistance to Mainers to investing in education and retirement so our youngest and oldest residents can thrive, this budget will serve people in every corner of our State in the immediate future and in the years to come. It has been an honor for me to work alongside my colleagues in the Legislative Assembly to craft this budget, and it has been a privilege to play a role in improving the lives of working people in our state.

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