It is a “new day” in Augusta according to Janet Mills, who became the first woman to serve as the chief executive of the State of Maine after being sworn into office as the state’s 75th governor on Wednesday evening at the Augusta Civic Center.
Mills in her inaugural address outlined a relatively hollow progressive policy agenda that called for bold policy changes and new initiatives, but lacked substance.
Among the proposals Mills shared are a new goal of generating 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable resources and expanding Medicaid to more than 70,000 childless, able-bodied adults. Mills also called for the re-establishment of the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet and the transition of a state policy office to the Office of Innovation and the Future to “dive into major policy challenges, foster collaboration and propose concrete, workable solutions.”
The first policy issue Mills addressed in her speech was climate change, claiming it was time for Maine to take action.
“Climate change is threatening our jobs, damaging our health and attacking our relationship to the land and sea. Tonight I say, enough. Enough with studies, talk, and debate. It is time to act!” Mills said.
The 50 percent renewable energy goal exceeds the current standard set at 40 percent renewable energy production by 2030. The new governor also told Mainers to “look for the new solar panels” that she said will be installed on the Blaine House in the coming weeks. Her energy policy agenda is aimed at welcoming people to “build a green future” in Maine.
The Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, first established under then-Gov. Angus King in 1996 and codified into state statute in 1999, was inactive under the LePage Administration. Its purpose is to help coordinate the planning, management and delivery of services for Maine children.
In discussing Medicaid expansion, Mills promised to fund the initiative “sustainably” and said her administration would work to ensure every Mainer has primary care. Mills did not share how she intends to fund Medicaid expansion.
Among other policy initiatives outlined in the address was the installment of a Director of Opiate Response position within state government, whose responsibility will be to “marshal the collective power and resources of state government” to curb the opioid crisis.
Mills also said a top priority of her administration is to attract and retain young people, achieved by offering the “best education” and replacing the “Open for Business” sign at the Maine-New Hampshire border on Interstate 95 with a sign that reads “Welcome Home.”
Absent from the address were two promises made on the campaign trail, including one to enact universal pre-K and another to not raise taxes on Mainers in her first biennial budget proposal. In addition Mills strayed away from several topics discussed in outgoing governor Paul LePage’s first inaugural address, including cutting regulations to improve the business climate, welfare reform and government accountability.
Overall, Mills offered a big government vision that will include tens of millions in new spending and make Maine people more dependent on government and the welfare state.