Maine Legislature approves $6.3 billion budget, anticipates governor's veto
By Nick Katers
AUGUSTA, Maine: The House and Senate voted late last week on a $6.3 billion budget that covers state expenses through June 30, 2015. The House passed the budget 102-43 while the Senate approved with a 25-10 vote. The budget is currently under review by Governor Paul LePage who has 10 days to approve or veto the legislation. LePage has indicated he will veto the budget due to sales tax increases. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate would need votes from two-thirds of their respective houses to overcome a veto.
The proposed budget features a 0.5 percent increase in sales taxes and a 1 percent increase in taxes on meals and hotel stays. These taxes are designed to offset $200 million in suspended revenue sharing with municipal governments proposed by Governor LePage. Proposed tax increases would expire at the end of the biennium on June 30, 2015. The governor has promised throughout the budget negotiations to veto any proposal that includes tax increases. “I am not worried about the next election. I am worried about the next generation,” argued LePage.
Supporters of the budget lauded the compromises made by both parties to achieve a final budget. House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D) said that legislators “can all leave knowing that we paid our bills and that we have a responsible solution that is a better alternative than what had been proposed.” Representative Kenneth Fredette (R) believed that Republicans who voted for the budget were concerned with the prospects of a government shutdown on July 1 if there is no approved spending bill. “Time is short, and we, the Legislature, must act to protect the hardworking people of Maine,” argued Fredette.
Opponents in the House and Senate shared Governor LePage’s concerns about tax increases in the budget. “It’s time that we make government smaller in the state of Maine,” said Representative Jeffrey Timberlake (R). Senate Minority Leader Michael Thibodeau (R) believed that the Legislature “made our state’s budget a priority over our families’ budget back home.” Representative Peter Stuckey (D) ultimately voted for the budget but voiced reservations that could weaken efforts to override a veto. “It’s bad math and terrible public policy. This budget is balanced out of the pockets of hardworking people,” argued Stuckey.