In this June 30, 2021, file photo, a man walks around the rear of the State House in Augusta. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine – Most Maine taxpayers will receive $850 payments later this year after lawmakers approved a bipartisan plan to remit most of the state’s budget surplus to aid Mainers at a time of high costs.

The relief payments are the largest item in Gov. Janet Mills’ supplemental budget, accounting for $729 million out of the state’s more than $1.2 billion surplus. Eligible Mainers could start receiving them as soon as June if the Legislature approves them as expected this week.

Legislative Republicans floated the idea of returning at least half of the state’s budget surplus to taxpayers last fall, and Mills announced her support for the plan during her State of the State address in February. Initially planned as $500 checks, the amount rose to $750 and then $850 after projections for the state’s budget surplus grew further.

The state’s budget panel approved a final plan last week, with the $850 payments now set to go out to roughly 857,000 Mainers, a greater number than previous anticipated after lawmakers voted to expand eligibility to cover all adults who earned up to $100,000 in 2021 if single filers, or up to $150,000 if filing as a head of household or $200,000 if married and filing jointly.

Republicans had pushed to raise or eliminate the income cutoff for checks, which had originally been set at $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for heads of households and $150,000 for married couples. Under the compromise, about 78 percent of Maine adults will receive a check.

Unlike last year’s $285 checks, which only went to workers who filed a W2 form, retirees and self-employed people are eligible for the payments this year. Adults who were claimed as a dependent for 2021 tax purposes remain ineligible.

Mainers must file a 2021 income tax return by Oct. 31 to receive a check, although the payments will go out sooner to those who have already filed. Seniors receiving social security who do not typically file tax returns will have to file to receive a payment.