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Maine Legislature approves $8.3 billion state budget

Most Midcoast legislators support passage that bypasses need for two-thirds vote
By Stephen Betts | Mar 31, 2021

Augusta — Most local legislators voted March 30 to support a two-year state budget of $8.3 billion.

The approval was done with a simply majority vote. Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed the legislation on Wednesday, March 31.

Traditionally, a two-thirds majority of both houses of the Legislature are needed to approve a budget because that margin allows a bill to take effect immediately. A simple majority means a bill will not become law until 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

By approving the budget with a simple majority and then adjourning by April 1, the new two-year budget will take effect by the start of the new fiscal year July 1.

The budget runs from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2023.

Voting to approve the state budget March 30 were state Sens. David Miramant, D-Camden and Chip Curry, D-Waldo County; and state Reps. Valli Geiger, D-Rockland; Vicki Doudera, D-Camden; Ann Matlack, D-St. George; Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington and Stanley Paige Zeigler, D-Montville.

Voting against the budget were state Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Lincoln County and independent state Reps. Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship and William Pluecker of Warren.

Last week, Rep. Geiger announced she would vote for the budget prior to April 1.

"It is a balanced budget, as required by Maine’s constitution. It avoids months of wrangling and the possibility of a government shutdown if we cannot achieve a two-thirds majority. This would be a disastrous possibility as we try to rebuild the economy coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic," Geiger said.

Rep. Evangelos criticized the method used by the Democrats and specifics of the approved budget.

"All money for criminal justice reform was jettisoned from this budget by the Democrats. Maine is operating in violation of the 6th Amendment, the right of indigent defendants to obtain a fair trial and effective legal counsel. We are very close to be sued over this for civil rights violations.

"The Judiciary Committee's recommendation on this matter to the Appropriations Committee was excised from this budget, as was money to help the drug addicted get into treatment and out of incarceration, which actually saves money in the long run. 60% of the folks in County jails have a drug problem and Democrats walked away from solving this.

"Democrats, the party of 'inclusion and diversity,' rammed this Janet Mills' budget through with not one independent or Republican vote, and again, 100% of the lemmings voting yes," Evangelos said.

Rep. Pluecker said the budget "continues to under fund our towns municipal revenue sharing, causing property taxes to continue to push our seniors out of their homes; we continue to not pay our Correctional Officers the wages they need for proper recruitment and retention.

"It does not acknowledge that we are spending a $660,000 per incarcerated child at Long Creek when by comparison it costs $45,000 per man at MSP; and it does nothing to address the growing concerns of farmers and consumers of water and soil contaminated by PFAS. In short, it does not acknowledge the work of the legislature to address the highest budgetary concerns of a bipartisan group of legislators."

Maine House Republicans issued a statement March 30. There are no local Republican office holders representing Knox County in the Legislature

"For only the third time in seventy years, legislative Democrats abandoned the established budget process to pass a one-page, two-year budget that effectively shuts out elected representatives from over 400 Maine towns and cities represented by Republicans and Independents from budget deliberations," the House Republicans stated.

The news release did not state what changes, if any, they would want in the budget.

In her budget message issued in January, Gov. Mills noted the budget does not increase taxes nor does it add any programs. The budget adds $45 million to general purpose aid to school districts and adds $61 million to the Rainy Day fund.

The proposed two-year budget represents about a $57 million increase from current two-year budget that expires June 30. That represents less than a 1% increase.

The governor issued a statement after she signed the budget .

“Throughout the pandemic, we have worked hard to maintain our balanced budget, to stay on solid financial footing, and to avoid cutting critical services that Maine people rely on more than ever in this difficult time. The budget I signed into law today is an extension of these efforts. This straightforward, basic budget ensures continuity of current services and provides certainty and stability for Maine people, businesses, schools, and municipalities during the ongoing pandemic," Gov. Mills said.

“With this budget as a foundation, we now look forward to receiving updated revenue projections from the non-partisan Revenue Forecasting Committee and guidance from the Federal government about allowable uses of the American Rescue Plan Act funding. These will allow my Administration to craft a supplemental budget proposal – which I consider to be part two of the biennial budget – for the Legislature’s consideration," she said.

“This supplemental will offer lawmakers of all parties the opportunity to build on and adjust the biennial budget based on the most up-to-date information and to make wise and prudent decisions on accelerating our state’s recovery from the pandemic. This will be important work – work that should be bipartisan and productive.”

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Comments (5)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Apr 01, 2021 08:11

Where have all the Republicians gone ?  Gone to flowers everyone. (pete Seeger)  We are quickly becoming a ONE party government and who's complaining ? Certainly NOT the republicans.  So to all the citizens of knox county the Democrats politely say "have it our way, or take the highway".

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Mar 31, 2021 17:59

It's all about the party now because of the caliber of people we vote into office. Until people can not get rich by being a politician nothing will change. Campaigns are way too long and way too expensive. Look at the money spent by a man running for the Maine house seat in Rockland. People are going hungry and homeless while money people buy a power trip.

Posted by: Gregory S Grotton | Mar 31, 2021 15:48


Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Mar 31, 2021 13:40

Did not see any willingness by Republicans to negotiate. Or maybe I missed something?

Posted by: Jay Feyler | Mar 31, 2021 12:04

No negotiations and one party rule is dangerous, it tells me the party is more important then the people.

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