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Maine’s budget basics
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), Maine’s total expenditures in fiscal year (FY) 2021 were $12.1 billion, including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds. NASBO reported that total expenditures across all states in FY 2021 were $2.7 trillion, ranging from $4.7 billion in Wyoming to $512.8 billion in California.
Each state allocates spending and taxes differently among different levels of governments, and local governments often administer programs with state funds, so combined state and local government data show a more complete picture of individual benefits and contributions when comparing states.
Per the US Census Bureau, Maine’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $12.3 billion in FY 2019 (the most recent year census data were available), or $9,170 per capita. (Census data exclude “business-like” activities such as utilities and transfers between state and local governments.) National per capita direct general expenditures were $10,161.
Maine’s largest spending areas per capita were public welfare ($2,623) and elementary and secondary education ($2,058). The Census Bureau includes most Medicaid spending in public welfare but also allocates some of it to public hospitals. Per capita spending is useful for state comparisons but is an incomplete metric because it doesn’t provide any information about a state’s demographics, policy decisions, administrative procedures, or residents’ choices.
Maine’s combined state and local general revenues were $13.9 billion in FY 2019, or $10,332 per capita. National per capita general revenues were $10,563. Maine uses all major state and local taxes. Maine’s largest sources of per capita revenue were property taxes ($2,769) and federal transfers ($2,390).
Governor Janet T. Mills, a Democrat, was elected in 2018 with 50 percent of the vote. The next gubernatorial election is in 2022.
Democrats control both the House of Representatives (80 Democrats to 64 Republicans and 5 independents) and Senate (22 Democrats to 13 Republicans). Control of the governor’s mansion and each house of the legislature gives Democrats a trifecta in Maine. The entire legislature is up for election in 2022 because both representatives and senators serve two-year terms.
Maine’s budget institutions, rules, and constraints
Maine uses a biennial budget. The legislature is not required to pass a balanced budget, nor is the governor required to sign one, and deficits may be carried over into the following year. However, the state has budget rules that require lawmakers to balance revenues and expenditures. Maine also limits spending growth with a formula based on personal income and population growth. However, the legislature can override the limit with a simple majority vote. The state also limits total authorized debt and debt service incurred by the state.
(Note: Some states have informal budget institutions that constrain overall spending growth or a specific expenditure’s growth.)
Maine’s current budget
Maine enacted its fiscal biennial 2022-2023 budget in July 2021. The enacted budget included $4.17 billion in general fund spending in FY 2022 and $4.16 billion in FY 2023. Also in July 2021, Maine temporarily increased its earned income tax credit from 12 percent of the federal credit to 20 percent for tax year 2021.
Under the American Rescue Plan, Maine will receive $997 million in direct state fiscal aid and $383 million in local government aid from the federal government. As of January 2022, Maine had spent part of its ARP funds on economic development, refilling its unemployment insurance trust fund, capitol construction, public health programs, and education spending.
According to NASBO, Maine’s recent expenditure totals (general fund spending/total spending, including federal transfers) were:
FY 2021: $3.8 billion/$12.1 billion
FY 2020: $3.8 billion/$10.5 billion
FY 2019: $3.7 billion/$8.8 billion
For more on Maine’s budget, see
Maine’s economic trends
Maine’s per capita income (per the Bureau of Economic Analysis) was $57,159 in 2021, ranking 29th among the states. It was below both the national average of $63,444 and the New England regional average of $76,651. The state’s median household income (five-year estimate) was $59,489 in 2020, ranking 32nd among the states and below the national average of $64,994. Maine’s poverty rate was 11.1 percent in 2020 (five-year estimate), below the national rate of 12.8 percent.
Although Maine’s averages tell a story about the entire state, Maine is composed of diverse localities. For example, the city of Lewiston’s median household income was $42,969, and its poverty rate was 16.6 percent; the city of South Portland’s median household income was $67,198, and its poverty rate was 6.9 percent.
Maine’s unemployment rate has historically been below the national average. (See how COVID-19 is affecting state employment and earnings data.)
Unemployment rates (like other economic indicators) often vary significantly by race and ethnicity. However, Maine does not currently have enough information available for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to break down its unemployment rate by race. (This is preliminary data. See the 2020 data for a more detailed breakdown of state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity.)