In this Nov. 19, 2021, file photo, a man dressed as the "Build Back Better Bill" wears a sash saying, "on to the Senate," as members of the House leave after voting on the bill on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / AP

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Joe Baldacci of Bangor represents District 9 in the Maine Senate.

We live in a moment of profound challenge and opportunity.

More than a year and a half into a pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 1,300 Mainers and more than 770,000 Americans, we are still living with COVID-19, thousands of people are unemployed, and too many are struggling to keep up with the demands of work and family.

Congress is on the precipice of passing historic legislation that addresses longstanding failures to support our families and communities — failures that predate the pandemic but were exacerbated by it.

The Build Back Better Act, which the House of Representatives passed last month, represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide significant benefits for working people while making the kinds of investments we need to see our economy grow for years to come.

The legislation would invest in child and elder care workers, some of the frontline heroes of the pandemic who have been underpaid and undervalued for far too long.

The child care system has seen providers closing their doors and workers leaving the industry. The bill would address the chronic shortage of child care options, raise wages for these cherished but low-paid workers and save families money while allowing them to stay in the workforce.

I am proud to have supported our heroic nursing home workers, including passing my bill in the Legislature this spring that will generate nearly $100 million in state and federal funds to help stabilize our nursing homes in Maine. Much more must be done to support Mainers who are older and who have disabilities. The Build Back Better bill would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into Maine’s home- and community-based services, creating thousands of good jobs caring for the elderly and disabled who want to live independently at home.

Our state also faces a housing crisis only made worse during the pandemic. Maine’s 2nd Congressional District faces an affordable housing shortage of more than 11,000 homes. Statewide, 1 in 5 renter households spend more than half their income on housing costs. The Build Back Better plan would increase the supply of housing, making homes more affordable and stimulating the construction sector. 

The Build Back Better plan would also extend the child tax credit to put money in working families’ pockets, expand job training and make college tuition more affordable and create good-paying union jobs to build the renewable energy economy of the future.

But you might ask, how can we pay for all these investments? Simply by rebalancing our tax code away from the rich and in favor of working people. This plan would ensure ultra high income households contribute more and corporations aren’t rewarded for hiding profits in offshore tax havens, and it would give the IRS the resources it needs to make sure the wealthiest pay what they owe, just like the rest of us do.

Rep. Jared Golden opposed the bill in part because he disagreed with a provision lifting the cap on state and local tax deductions. The Maine Center for Economic Policy wrote about the impact of the state and local tax deduction changes recently, pointing out that the greatest benefit in Maine would go to those earning more than $650,000. I am grateful that Golden has expressed a willingness to work to improve the state and local tax deduction agreement that passed the House.

However, Build Back Better is overall paid for by one of the most progressive tax packages in generations. I hope Golden will vote for the package when it comes back to the House after Senate passage.