Sen. Susan Collins, second from right, and Sen. Angus King, second from left, cut the ribbon at a Nov. 18 event commemorating the revitalization of Waterville's downtown as they are flanked by Colby College President David Greene, left, and Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho, right. Credit: David Marino Jr. / BDN

Maine has had an outsized share of headlines out of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that passed the Senate on Thursday, including a pause on controversial lobster rules and an Electoral College reform package led by Sen. Susan Collins.

But what you may not know is that numerous others in the bill will have an effect on Maine. Some are direct, including major funding for the University of Maine, a housing overhaul around Acadia National Park and regulations on the York River, while others will filter down to the state in indirect ways.

Here are some of the highlights from the measure.

The attention-grabbers

Perhaps the biggest item was the provision inserted by Maine’s congressional delegation that places a six-year pause on federal rules aimed at protecting the right whale and sets aside potentially hundreds of millions of dollars for fishing gear and research. It attempts to effectively end a lawsuit between conservation groups and the industry.

The Electoral Count Reform Act, co-authored by Collins, a Republican, also made its way into the bill. It responds to the Capitol riots of Jan. 6, 2021, by trying to close loopholes in the presidential election process that former President Donald Trump tried to exploit, clarifying the vice president’s ceremonial presiding role and making it harder to challenge electors.

The Maine delegation also worked to increase defense funding in the bill, which adds another Navy destroyer, built at Bath Iron Works. It was a particular priority for Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, who ended up getting much of the increase that he advocated for over the summer into the bill.

Lots of money for UMaine

Collins, who is on the Senate appropriations committee and will be the No. 1 Republican on the panel next year, touted $308 million in earmarks for Maine, while Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, helped secure an overlapping $250 million for state-specific projects.

These reach into communities across Maine for road work and fire station upgrades, but $120 million went to various initiatives in the University of Maine System, including $33 million for UMaine’s advanced manufacturing center and $8 million for PFAS research that was lobbied for by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and other groups.

Natural resources funding

Acadia was helped by a King-led initiative that transfers an undeveloped portion of the park to the town of Bar Harbor for an affordable housing project, with housing for park employees on part of the parcel. The bill also designates the York River as “wild and scenic,” making it eligible for federal funding.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, also led an initiative directing $45 million to address erosion at Camp Ellis in Saco caused mostly by a jetty originally built in the 1800s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

New choices on health care

Under pandemic-era policies, Maine and other states were prohibited from disenrolling recipients of Medicaid, the health program for low-income Americans. The spending bill allows states to look at who is ineligible in April and boot them. Other provisions expand who can get Medicaid, including those assisting new mothers and children.

Gov. Janet Mills took office by implementing Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and enrollment in that program has more than doubled to nearly 100,000 since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Her administration is unlikely to use the new federal rules to rein in coverage, but it may prompt legislative Republicans to urge her to do so.


Mainers will see a variety of changes to their 401(k) plans under the bill. Most Maine businesses would have to enroll workers in the savings plans as well.

The bill also includes new matching funds from the feds, giving workers who make below $35,000 a year — or $70,000 if filing jointly — a 50 percent match from the federal government for up to $2,000 in savings. In Maine, nearly 4 in 10 people have incomes below $50,000, according to 2021 Census data. That is higher than the national average.