Maine’s revenue projections could boost relief checks

Maine’s revenues continue to outperform budget writers’ projections, and that could mean fatter relief checks for hundreds of thousands of taxpayers.

On Tuesday, Maine’s nonpartisan Revenue Forecasting Committee upgraded the state’s general fund revenue forecast by an estimated $411.6 million for the current two-year budget.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said she plans to use roughly half of additional surplus revenue – or about $205.8 million – for proposed relief checks, which will boost the payments from $500 to $750 for more than 800,000 eligible taxpayers.

Last week, Mills filed a supplemental budget that calls for directing more than $850 million in anticipated surplus revenue to fixing roads and bridges, boosting spending on public education, and pumping more money into the state’s retirement system and reserve funds.

A key plank of the massive spending plan, which requires legislative approval, devotes $411 million to distributing $500 checks to taxpayers.

Mills said the historic spending is aimed at tackling some of Maine’s most pressing issues “like inflation and our longstanding workforce shortage, by giving back money to Maine people, delivering tax relief for working families.”

Republicans have criticized Mills’ relief check proposal as a “campaign stunt,” saying it ignores calls for structural tax reform to ease the burden on the state’s working families amid high unemployment and record inflation.

In July, Mills signed a two-year, $8.5 billion budget that included $275 one-time “hazard” payments for workers earning less than $75,000 per year, or joint filers making less than $150,000, who worked during the pandemic. The state began sending out those payments in November.

The revenue committee says a range of factors, including low interest rates, federal stimulus and increased consumer activity, continue to improve the state’s economic outlook.

But committee members on Tuesday cautioned that the pandemic recovery remains uneven and the economic outlook remains murky going forward.

The Mills administration attributed the state’s robust economic recovery to “strong federal support” and “good fiscal management” but also noted the forecasts from economists that state that revenues will be “volatile” in coming years.

Finance Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa said in a statement that the administration will follow the advice of economists and “act prudently and cautiously, delivering much-needed relief to Maine people and maintaining a balanced budget.”

This article was originally posted on Maine’s revenue projections could boost relief checks

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