Maine lawmakers moving forward with two-part state budget

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Majority Democrats in the Maine Legislature are pushing through a “baseline budget” to ensure government operations continue in the new fiscal year while leaving the door open to discussions on new spending initiatives in a supplemental budget to be addressed later.

The advancement of a pared-down budget to be adopted by the end of next week, the deadline for a simple majority-approved bill to go into effect on July 1, prevents Republicans from using a state government shutdown as an 11th-hour negotiating tactic but preserves their negotiating clout for proposals to be considered later.

The proposal emerged Thursday after closed-door negotiations between the parties and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills over her proposed $10.3 billion, two-year budget.

Sen. Peggy Rotundo, a committee co-chair, said that splitting up the budget into two parts provides stability for families, schools, municipalities and businesses while allowing both parties “to continue working in a collaborative and productive manner on any new initiatives and programs in the coming months.”

“We pledge to continue this work with our colleagues and will do so with our ongoing commitment to improving the lives of all Mainers,” added Rep. Melanie Sachs, a Democrat from Freeport, the other committee co-chair.

The process mirrors what happened in 2021, when Democrats passed a majority budget over the objection of Republicans. A bipartisan revision was later adopted.

If lawmakers were to wait until later in the session to approve the budget, then a two-thirds majority would be required for provisions to go into effect in time for the new fiscal year.

In 2017, House Republicans aligned with then-GOP Gov. Paul LePage torpedoed a compromise budget, forcing a partial shutdown of state government for several days. That forced frenzied negotiations on a new spending bill that could reach the two-thirds threshold.