Tonight, lawmakers in the Maine House gave initial approval to a bill that makes changes to the state’s two-year budget in a vote of 120 to 26.
“The best parts of the budget are the items that are no longer in it,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo,of Lewiston. “We rejected shortsighted cuts to public education, irresponsible and unfunded tax cuts, and cuts to General Assistance that would have shifted costs to property tax payers.”
Lawmakers rejected many of the proposals in the governor’s original supplemental budget bill, LD 1903, restoring proposed cuts to General Assistance, higher education, and the Fund for a Healthy Maine. It also provides additional resources to the state police, the courts, and to Child Development Services.
The bill eliminates the State Planning Office, transfers its responsibilities to other state agencies, and creates the Office of Policy Management. As proposed by the governor, the OPM will take over certain state planning functions. The bill weakens the governor’s controversial proposal to give OPM subpoena power and removes its ability to conduct investigations of other state agencies. Funding for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network was fully restored and the bill transitions the network to a fee-for-service funding model over the next five years.
The governor issued a statement earlier today saying he would not sign the budget. He said, “I cannot put my signature on a bill that largely ignores welfare reform. I have major concerns about the overspending in the General Assistance welfare program.”
“It’s disappointing to see the governor digging in his heels just because he didn’t get his way,” said Rep. Emily Cain, of Orono, the House Democratic Leader. “I urge him to sign this reasonable budget that has received overwhelming bipartisan support.”
The bill faces more votes in the Senate. Separate votes are still pending on two other budget proposals from the LePage administration. Those votes won’t occur until May after lawmakers receive updated accurate figures from the administration.