Maine Teeters on Brink of Shutdown as Legislature Takes Up Compromise Budget

Jun 30, 2017

Update 6:10 p.m.: The House and Senate have given initial approval to a $7.1 billion two-year budget designed to prevent a shutdown of state government.

Additional votes are needed before the budget will be enacted and it’s still unclear whether the House of Representatives will pass the budget with the two-thirds support it needs to go to Gov. Paul LePage as an emergency measure.

LePage reiterated his plan to hold the bill for 10 days even though he stridently opposes it. If he follows through on that threat, state government will shut down.

The House vote fell 14 votes shy of the two-thirds support that will be needed on enactment. The enactment vote will be taken Friday night, sometime before funding for state government runs out.

A majority of House Republicans voted to block the budget bill, while Democrats supported it. The vote was 34-1 in the Republican-controlled Senate — well over the two-thirds threshold.

About 5:40 p.m. Friday: Mal Leary and Maine Things Considered Host Ed Morin spoke about the state of the compromise budget.

Earlier Friday: Gov. Paul LePage lambasted the compromise budget proposal worked out by legislative leaders, increasing the likelihood of a partial government shutdown come midnight.

Just minutes after Senate Republicans held a unity news conference to endorse the budget compromise, LePage told reporters that it's a bad deal for the state.

Gov. Paul LePage on Friday.
Credit Mal Leary / Maine Public

“Just because they have two-thirds doesn’t mean I have to put my name to bad legislation. They are asking me to compromise my principles, and sir that’s not going to happen,” he said. “I think this is a bad budget for Maine. It’s a bad budget for the Maine people. This is nothing but a compromise so they can go home for the Fourth of July, and they are not doing the people’s work.”

He said even if lawmakers pass a budget today, he will wait the full 10 days allowed him under the constitution to issue a veto. He said he wants legislative leaders to negotiate a better deal with him.

“This budget that they have has no prayer. And if they are hell-bent on bringing this budget done, than we will shut down at midnight tonight and we will talk with them in 10 days,” LePage said.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans and House Democrats urged colleagues in both parties to support passage of the compromise budget deal, worked out by their leaders at the State House.

Senate Majority Leader Garret Mason of Lisbon Falls said the time is now.

“I think the clock has run out. And the legislative procedure that we have in front of us says up or down on this, no amendments allowed,” he said.

House Democratic leaders agree and say they are upset that LePage is demanding they rewrite the budget to meet all his demands. Both groups are critical of LePage’s pledge to take the 10-day period to veto the budget and prompt a state shutdown.

“It will be his responsibility to do his job, but we are not going to be held hostage to the demands of somebody dictating he will only sign a budget that meets his specifications,” said House Speaker Sara Gideon.