Rep. Michele Meyer Special to Seacoastonline
As a Maine state representative, I work hard to deliver on the promise to improve the lives of my constituents. This session, that work has included passage of a supplemental budget that invests in our students, provides tax relief to working families and retirees, and so many other important initiatives.
One of these initiatives is two years of free community college. This historic program will help recent and soon-to-be graduates earn an affordable education while also helping fill many of our state’s most needed jobs, such as those in health care and the trades. Students also have the opportunity to use these two tuition-free years as a jump-start to a four-year degree at one of the state’s four-year degree-granting institutions.
I was proud to support this smart investment in our state’s future. To qualify for two free years at a Maine community college, a student must have graduated from high school or earned the equivalent of a high school diploma in the years 2020 to 2023. There are no income or age limits. You can learn more at www.mccs.me.edu/freecollege.
Investments in our students and education system are smart investments in Maine’s future. We also provided the funding necessary to freeze in-state tuition throughout the University of Maine System and set aside funds to ensure the state continues to meet its obligation to fund 55% of public K-12 education costs. I was proud to advocate for all these measures.
To help with high energy costs and other rising prices, we also included direct relief payments in the supplemental budget. These $850 relief checks will be mailed to more than 850,000 tax filers beginning as soon as next month. By delivering these relief payments directly to Mainers, individuals and families will be able to decide for themselves how best to defray the costs we face due to global events like the war in Ukraine, supply chain issues and impacts of the pandemic.
In order to be eligible for a direct relief check, Mainers must file a tax return and fall within certain income guidelines. The guidelines are based on federal adjusted gross income, or FAGI, with a maximum of $100,000 for single filers, $150,000 for heads of household and $200,000 for couples filing jointly. If you do not typically file a return, you have until Oct. 31 to do so. If you need assistance filing your tax return, there are resources available to help. Visit www.cashmaine.org, call 2-1-1 or visit www.211maine.org.
In addition to direct payments, we included targeted tax relief. We increased the Property Tax Fairness Credit to help homeowners and renters, especially older Mainers, afford to stay in their homes. We bolstered the Earned Income Tax Credit to help working families make ends meet, and we also increased income tax exemptions for retirees.
The supplemental budget addresses a range of other important issues, too, from tackling contamination of our water and soils from PFAS, known as “forever chemicals,” to expanding access to health care for Maine children.
Beyond the budget bill, we took action to address the shortage of available and affordable housing, protect the integrity of our elections and bolster Maine’s behavioral health care system.
I am proud of what we were able to accomplish this session, and I will continue working for our community in the months to come, recognizing we have more work to do to solve the issues facing our state. If you would like to discuss the measures I have mentioned here or any other state-level issue, please feel welcome to contact me. I am always glad to hear from you. I can be reached at Michele.Meyer@legislature.maine.gov.