State representatives take part a special session of the Legislature at the State House, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — Democrats and Republicans in the Maine Legislature avoided a major election-year budget confrontation and are poised to send a bipartisan $1.2 billion spending plan to Gov. Janet Mills’ desk as early as Tuesday.

The budget has been a muted policy area during a 2022 legislative session dominated by energy policy, housing and tribal rights. Two improved revenue forecasts supported by federal coronavirus relief spending gave the Democratic governor increasingly large surpluses to work with, although forecasters worry the good times may not last with record-high inflation.

Mills dedicated more than half of the package to relief payments, cribbing a demand from Republicans at the end of last year. From Mills’ left flank, progressives are frustrated that many of well over $1 billion in tabled bills will not advance with just $12 million left over to fund them.

The first votes on the budget are expected in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Here is a guide to the top items in the budget that will affect the most Maine people.

Relief checks for most Mainers

The $850 relief checks for most Mainers have dominated discussion of the budget. The payments are set to go out to roughly 857,000 Maine adults at a total cost of $729 million. The first checks could be sent by the state in June.

Tens of millions for ‘forever chemicals’

The budget set aside $60 million for a fund to address PFAS contamination that is increasingly being discovered in Maine land and water. Mills and lawmakers also put $3.2 million toward building in-state testing capacity for the chemicals with more money for government positions focused on mitigation, testing and outreach.

Free community college

Students who graduated high school between 2020 and 2023 will be eligible for two years of free community college. The budget allocates $20 million for this initiative, which was a key reveal during her State of the State address in February.

Tax changes

The budget permanently expands the Property Tax Fairness Credit, which give certain low-income tenants and homeowners a refundable credit on income taxes for property taxes or rent paid. The budget extends the credit to $1,000 for those under age 65 and $1,500 for those aged 65 and older at an expected cost of $7 million.

The budget would also raise the income tax exemption for retiree pensions from the first $10,000 of a pension to $25,000. It would increase that amount to $35,000 by 2024.

State worker pensions

There are several tax changes to pensions for retired state employees, the most notable being a proposal to raise the base amount of income that retirees can earn a cost of living adjustment on to more than $24,000. It comes with an additional 1 percent increase, for a total cost of $104 million.

Child care subsidies

Maine’s child care workforce will receive a boost, as the budget allocates $12 million to provide monthly stipends of $200 for child care workers in the state.