From more electric cars on the road to lower out-of-pocket health care costs, effects of the $739 billion spending package just passed by the U.S. Senate will hit all Mainers.
On Sunday, the U.S. Senate passed the so-called Inflation Reduction Act in a 50-50 vote with the tie broken by Vice President Kamala Harris after nearly a year of negotiations among the Democratic caucus. Independent Sen. Angus King voted for the legislation, while Sen. Susan Collins joined all of her fellow Senate Republicans in opposing the bill.
The bill is expected to soon pass the House and be signed into law by President Joe Biden. It is a major and far-reaching legislative achievement for Democrats that is the first major response to climate change, but it may not have the effect on costs that backers tout.
Here’s what is in the bill.
What is in the act?
The measure comes with over $300 billion in investments in energy and climate change policies, primarily through tax incentives for Americans from making electric cars more affordable to tax credits making homes more energy efficient.
There are also a number of health care provisions in the bill, including allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for 10 prescription drugs, a change widely expected to reduce consumer costs. The bill also puts $64 billion toward extending health care subsidies previously passed by the American Rescue Plan Act for three more years.
It also closes a number of tax loopholes and sets a new minimum of 15 percent for corporations that generate over $1 billion in profits annually. Revenue generated from those changes is set to help pay for the bill’s provisions.
What effect will it have on Maine?
As a state that is both at increased risk due to climate change because of its long coastline and with a median household income below that of the U.S. average, several provisions are expected to help Maine.
From rising sea levels to a spike in tick-borne illnesses and the loss of jobs in Maine’s fishing industry, climate change is already affecting Maine in a myriad of ways. If successful, the act’s provisions could ensure that those problems do not grow far more severe in the decades ahead.
That’s why the bill has drawn support from renewable energy advocates across the state. Maine Conservation Voters’ policy director, Kathleen Meil, said “this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.”
Stateside advocates like King, the liberal Maine Center for Economic Policy and Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, say the bill will reduce costs for Mainers on utilities and health care, especially working class ones. AARP Maine praised the provisions lowering costs on medications.
It is worth noting that conservative groups have argued the opposite, saying its provisions will burden businesses and working-class people.
There could be other effects on rural Maine in the form of a provision boosting IRS spending by $80 billion over the next decade to increase tax enforcement, aiming at high-income taxpayers. Audits are now more targeted toward lower-income Americans, with ProPublica finding more per-capita audits in Piscataquis and Washington counties than any other place in Maine.
Will it reduce inflation and rising costs?
Democrats have heralded the bill as an important weapon against rapidly growing inflation, which has raised costs for consumers and businesses across Maine and the U.S.
However, experts generally agree that the bill will not actually do much to actually fight inflation. An analysis last week out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business found that both its own analysis and one from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showed that the reduction in inflation was “statistically indistinguishable from zero.”
It looks likely to shrink the federal deficit, though, with the Congressional Budget Office estimating a reduction of $102 billion over a decade.