Final approval to a bill that makes changes to the state’s two-year budget passed 105 to 30 in the House and overwhelmingly by 35 to 0 in the Senate.
Lawmakers rejected many of the proposals in Governor Paul LePage’s original supplemental biennial budget bill, LD 1903, restoring most of the proposed cuts to General Assistance, higher education, MPBN and the Fund for a Healthy Maine. The amended bill also provides critical resources to the state police, the courts, and to Child Development Services.
“We have a responsible agreement that rejects the most harmful proposals in the governor’s budget,” said Rep. Emily Cain, the House Democratic leader. “The bigger hurdle we face will be the governor’s remaining DHHS budget cuts, which are harmful to the elderly, disabled, and to children.”
“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.”
Separate votes are still pending on the LePage administration’s budget proposal for the Department of Health and Human Services for 2013. Votes on the measure were delayed until May after lawmakers learned the numbers the administration provided were inaccurate.
The budget bill passed also eliminates the State Planning Office, transfers its responsibilities to other state agencies, and creates the Office of Policy Management.
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 had proposed cutting General Assistance reimbursements to towns to 50 percent in the original bill. The amended version brings the reimbursement rate from 90 to 85 percent.
Today LePage issued line-item vetoes on two parts of the supplemental budget. They address the funding of general assistance for the 2013 fiscal year and the disproportionate share to hospitals and psychiatric facilities, which offsets losses in federal funding. The legislature may have to return sooner than May 15th to deal with this issue.
The two areas would shift costs to municipalities as well as cut back on health care.
The constitution (Article IV, Part Third. Legislative Power. Section 2-A) gives the governor this authority, and provides that the line item veto can be over-ridden by the legislature by a majority vote in each chamber. Also, House Rule 521 and Senate Rule 523 say that the legislature must act within 5 days to override this type of veto.
This means that it is likely that the presiding officers will reconvene the full legislature at the end of the upcoming week, likely on Thursday, April 19 and/or Friday, April 20.
The Speaker and the Senate President intend to make the final decision regarding the schedule on this coming Tuesday.