(The Center Square) – Maine passed a revised supplemental budget March 17 that incorporates a response to the coronavirus threat, and includes a modest amount to address road repairs.
The $73 million supplemental budget approved by lawmakers was down from the $134 initially proposed by the governor prior to the outbreak’s spread to the U.S. The Maine CDC will receive $1 million and $15 million will be for direct health care providers.
“This revised proposal represents a bipartisan effort to strengthen the State’s ability to respond to and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Maine,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a news release.
But the approval of such a large expenditure comes during a particularly volatile time for the economy, Jacob Posik, Director of Communications for the Maine Policy Institute, said in an email response to The Center Square.
“The supplemental budget included spending outside of the state's coronavirus response. Given the ongoing economic slowdown due to the virus and social distancing, Maine has no guarantee that its revenue projections will fully materialize into the future,” Posik said. “While the $70+ million supplemental budget lawmakers agreed to was roughly $50 million less than what the governor initially proposed, spending this amount of money now amid economic uncertainty could cause significant budgetary woes down the road.”
Posik also noted the bill provides increased powers for the executive branch.
“The state set aside $11 million for emergency coronavirus response spending. The omnibus COVID-19 response bill lawmakers approved Tuesday greatly expands the power of the executive branch, including new power over the manner in which the June primary elections are conducted.”
The transportation measure does not go far enough to address critical infrastructure needs, he added.
“Instead of identifying a long-term funding solution to close Maine's $232 million annual transportation funding shortfall, lawmakers kicked the can down the road by approving a $120 million bond package, with $105 million earmarked for transportation infrastructure upgrades. Maine cannot borrow its way out of a funding shortfall, and after Governor Mills and lawmakers grew state spending by approximately $800 million in the current budget, there's no excuse for such a large funding shortfall to exist in the first place,” Posik said.
According to the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, as of Sunday afternoon the state had seen 89 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection.