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.
AUGUSTA -- In a vote of 102 to 43, the Maine House on Thursday gave its final approval to a responsible bipartisan budget proposal that would blunt massive property tax hikes in Governor Paul LePage’s two-year budget.
“We started with an incredibly difficult challenge and settled on a responsible solution that is far better than the budget Governor LePage sent us,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “This is a budget that will blunt a massive property tax hike on all Maine people, one that restores funding to schools and ensures our seniors can pay for their health care and medicine.”
Six months ago, LePage presented the Legislature with a $6.3 billion budget that would shift nearly $400 million of the tax burden to communities and their property taxpayers. The governor’s budget would hike property taxes to fund the tax breaks for the wealthy that were passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature two years ago.
The bipartisan budget proposal significantly reduces LePage’s cuts to cities, towns and Maine’s schools. It would restore $125 million in cuts to revenue sharing, replaces the Circuit Breaker cuts with a $29 million property tax fairness credit and restores $9 million in cuts to the Homestead Tax Credit. It also restores $32 million in cuts to Maine’s schools.
“Today, we achieved what many said was impossible: passage of a bipartisan budget, despite a significant shortfall and a divided state house,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham. “While Democrats would have preferred to suspend the unfunded tax breaks for the wealthy, this was a non-starter for Republicans.”
The restorations are partially paid for by capping $65 million in income tax deductions for the wealthy, closing $40 million in corporate loopholes to be identified by a task force and slightly increasing the state’s sales and meals and lodging taxes. The budget includes a temporary half-penny increase in the sales tax and a 1 percent increase in the meals and lodging tax that both sunset after two years.
The House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston called the budget a true compromise.
“This is not a Democratic budget or Republican budget. It is a responsible budget built on collaboration and common ground,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston. “We were not sent here to represent our political parties. We were sent here to represent the people.”
The budget also restores cuts to the Drugs for the Elderly Program that helps seniors pay for their medicine and care. It also reduces waitlists for enhanced specialized MaineCare services for people with severe disabilities.
The proposal, LD 1509, faces a final vote in the Senate before heading to the Governor for action.
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