MAINE BEHIND THE NUMBERS
The facts on the economic track record of Maine governors
Paul LePage and Janet Mills
Under Mills, Maine’s economy has outperformed the national average — under LePage, it lagged behind
LePage and Mills both faced extreme economic challenges during their time in office. For LePage, it was the Great Recession that began two years before his election in 2010, and for Mills it was the COVID-19 pandemic that struck a year into her term. Both nationwide crises caused severe job losses and economic hardship that hit working families and small businesses especially hard. LePage focused on tax breaks for wealthy households and corporations, resulting in a painfully sluggish 10-year recovery that was among the worst in the nation.
Mills focused her efforts on shoring up public health, education, and support services, maximizing federal funding, and directing assistance to people with the greatest need. The approach resulted in economic growth stronger than the national average.
Inflation is global
Prices are up on so many things: heating oil and gas, groceries, housing — products and services we use every day. And not just here. It’s happening in every state and all over the world.
Rising prices are a global problem triggered by the pandemic, Russia’s attack on Ukraine, corporate profiteering, and a mismatch between supply and demand for goods and services. While Maine’s governor has little power to fix these problems, they can help protect families hit hardest by rising prices and take steps to address some underlying causes of inflation in the future.
Larger local funding shortfalls under LePage mirrored increases to property tax rates
LePage secured tax breaks that largely benefitted the wealthiest households and reduced income tax revenues for schools, health care, and other critical services by $895 million annually. As a result, sales taxes expanded, property taxes increased, and when he left office, 80 percent of Mainers had a higher tax rate than the wealthiest 1 percent.
Mills' bipartisan balanced budgets restored and improved state services during an economic downturn without laying off public servants or raising taxes on working families. In addition to fulfilling the state’s commitment to fund schools for the first time and restoring state funding for local services, Mills’ policies boosted incomes for working families, stabilized property taxes, and resulted in the bottom 40 percent of households no longer paying a higher state and local tax rate than the wealthiest 1 percent.
It took Maine almost nine years to recover the jobs lost during the Great Recession — the forty-ninth slowest recovery in the nation
While most of LePage’s efforts to roll back the minimum wage and weaken child labor laws ultimately failed, his tenure was marked by suppressed job quality, slowed job growth, and Maine becoming a less desirable place to work. His cut-and-gut approach to state services laid off workers, left positions unfilled, and made it harder for people who lost their jobs during the Great Recession to get back on their feet. It took Maine almost nine years to recover the jobs lost during the recession — the forty-ninth slowest recovery in the nation.
When faced with an unemployment crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Mills responded by leveraging $2.25 billion in federal aid to mount a massive rebuilding effort focused on workforce supports, expanded social services, and education. In just two years, Maine not only recovered 99 percent of the jobs lost during the pandemic, it now has the seventh highest rate of in-migration and is the only state that grew younger in 2021.
The percentage of children in poverty grew as LePage slashed safety net spending
LePage enacted policies that resulted in greater hardship for Maine people struggling in the wake of one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. He cut food assistance and made it harder for Mainers struggling with job loss and limited opportunity to get support. He rejected or hoarded tens of millions in federal funds targeted to Mainers living in poverty. Under LePage, Maine’s children fell into deep poverty at eight times the national average. During a portion of his term, Maine was ranked 3rd hungriest state in the nation and one in six households was food insecure.
After taking office in 2019, Mills worked with the legislature to combat poverty and draft a roadmap to ending hunger in Maine by 2030. Parts of the plan are currently underway, including expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, maximizing federal nutrition programs, raising wages, making school meals free for all Maine children, and making health care, child care, and higher education more affordable.
Under LePage, Maine fell from being the 10th healthiest state to 21st — under Mills, Maine improved to 8th healthiest
As the rest of the nation rapidly expanded health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act, Maine was the only state that did not increase its share of insured residents. LePage enacted policies that triggered increases in health insurance rates for older and rural residents. His five-year fight to block the expansion of Medicaid left tens of thousands of Mainers without health coverage. He also cut funding for family planning services. Extreme program cuts created further harm for rural residents, older Mainers, and families with low-income and hollowed out Maine’s public health agencies leaving them under-staffed and dangerously unprepared for a pandemic.
Rebuilding Maine’s health care infrastructure and expanding services was an urgent priority for the Mills administration. Mills ensured 95,000 Mainers have access to affordable health care through MaineCare expansion and protected and expanded access to comprehensive reproductive health services. Under her leadership, Maine holds one of the nation's highest vaccination rates and lowest death rates for COVID-19.
As Governor, LePage shortchanged schools by $1.4B from FY12-FY19
The LePage administration spent eight years denying full funding of Maine schools. Instead, tax revenue and surpluses were hoarded or gifted back to the wealthiest Mainers in the form of tax breaks, forcing towns to raise property taxes to make up $1.4 billion in shortfalls. While 47 percent of Maine student families struggled with low income, LePage blocked efforts to expand access to school meals, including programs that were already completely funded. He also blocked rules protecting Maine’s college students from predatory lenders.
Under Mills, the state is now fulfilling its commitment to fund 55 percent of public education costs for the first time. Her policies expanded public pre-K programs, raised the minimum salary for teachers, made school meals free for all Maine kids, and provided critical funding to upgrade Career & Technical Education schools. She also made community college free for recent high school graduates and signed a Student Loan Bill of Rights.
LePage policies forfeited $255.7 million in federal funds meant for older Mainers
As the number of older people living in poverty rose, LePage blocked $15 million in voter-approved funding for affordable senior housing, forfeited almost $4 million in federal funding for Alzheimer’s, dementia, and preventative cancer care, cut prescription drug assistance, and blocked pay increases for direct care workers. He also tried to eliminate the Medicare Savings Plan and the Drugs for the Elderly program, and vetoed funding for Meals on Wheels.
Mills acted swiftly to prioritize the needs of older Mainers by expanding Medicaid on her first day in office, authorizing the senior housing bond, and expanding food, energy, and property tax supports. To properly prepare for the needs of a population that will require more aging-related services, Mills also established a new Cabinet on Aging.
Under Mills, Maine is quickly catching up in solar energy generation
As climate change showed measurable impact across a wide span of Maine’s economy and toxic chemicals threatened Mainers’ health and livelihoods, LePage dismissed concerns, blocked renewable energy innovation, and encouraged corporate exploitation of Maine’s natural resources. His inaction also cost Maine vital clean energy projects, capital investments, and high-quality jobs that can't be shipped overseas.
Strengthening environmental laws and holding the state to some of the country’s most ambitious climate goals, Mills committed to solve the “forever chemical” PFAS crisis and aggressively grow Maine’s clean energy economy. Today, Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions are 25 percent lower than in 1990, far surpassing the 10 percent reduction goal. Maine is also on track to use 80 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2045.