Augusta -- Governor Paul LePage’s 60-day budget scheme won’t pass Constitutional muster, according to a letter from the state’s Attorney General. LePage announced the 11th hour budget gimmick today as part of a media event where he pledged to veto the bipartisan plan passed last week by two-thirds of the State Legislature.
In a letter to Presiding Officers of the Legislature, the Attorney General Janet Mills said the state could not pass a temporary continuing resolution. Citing the opinion of the Attorney General on March 2, 1983, Mills wrote:
“Contrary to what the Congress has sometimes done, the Maine Constitution and statutes neither authorize nor envision a continuing resolution or any similar mechanism. Unlike the federal Constitution, the Maine Constitution requires a balanced budget. Any effort to continue the budget that expires on July 1, 2013, would result in a budget that is out of balance, given the major differences between the expenditures of the current budget and those of the budget recently passed by the Legislature and sent to the Governor for his signature.”
Last Thursday night, lawmakers sent the Governor a bipartisan compromise that was unanimously endorsed by the Legislature’s Appropriations committee. The bipartisan budget will blunt massive property tax hikes originally proposed by LePage, restore cuts to Maine schools and ensure programs to help the elderly pay for their medicine are funded.
“The Governor should act now to sign the bipartisan budget or veto it so the Legislature can do what's right and responsible for the people of Maine,” said House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick. “We have viable bipartisan compromise. This last minute unworkable scheme is just a distraction.”
Mills letter said LePage’s continuing resolution proposal would throw the state into “financial uncertainty.” Mills said the proposal would face “significant opposition from bondholders, schools, hospitals and thousands of entities to whom the state has continuing and long-term obligations.”
LePage has until Wednesday to act on the budget before it becomes law. He has repeatedly pledged to issue a veto.