PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine's finance commissioner announced a plan Wednesday to bridge a half-billion dollar revenue shortfall by using a combination of federal funding, liquor sales tax receipts and cost reductions.
The state is facing a projected $528 million revenue shortfall for the two years ending June 30, 2021. Finance Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa's proposal can avoid “deep programmatic cuts and layoffs for now,” the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services said in a statement.
The budget shortfall is a product of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Figueroa's proposal calls for about $256 million in cost reductions from state departments.
Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said she would evaluate the proposal.
“And I urge Congress to provide additional aid to state and local governments, along with flexibility for funding already awarded, so that we can continue to preserve critical services for Maine people and chart a full economic recovery,” she said.
Mills called for state department heads to trim spending by 10% in early August.
In other news related to the virus in Maine:
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday that the number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the state increased by 21.
The number of people who have tested positive in Maine stands at 4,734 while the number of patients who have died in Maine is 134, the Maine CDC reported.
The seven-day average for new cases per day was about 25, which was about the same as it was a week ago.
The COVID-19 illness results in mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems.
Public health officials in Maine are continuing to monitor the spread of coronavirus in other states, and they are no closer to easing travel restrictions put in place because of the virus.
Maine requires travelers from other states to produce a negative coronavirus test or quarantine for two weeks. It exempted New Hampshire and Vermont from those requirements in late June, and added Connecticut, New York and New Jersey to the exempt list in early July.
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Nirav Shah said Tuesday the state recently reviewed case statistics in other states and “didn’t see anything that prompted us to move any states into the ‘can visit without negative test’ category.”
That means the travel restrictions still apply to Massachusetts, which sends droves of tourists to Maine every summer and fall. But Shah said the number of new cases per million in Massachusetts was 769, which was more than three times the number in Maine. The number in Rhode Island was even higher, he said.
Shah said it's possible the state could ease travel restrictions on states outside the Northeast, but they would have to meet Maine's strict criteria for containment of the virus.