Likely Heading to Committee of Conference
AUGUSTA – The Maine House of Representatives moved to advance the biennial budget today by voting in favor (81 – 64) of the democratic report from the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. With the deadline of June 30 fast approaching, pressure to complete the budget is increasing and a major disagreement regarding a voter-approved increase in education funding still exists.
“Today, Democrats again put forward a responsible budget, that strengthens Maine’s economy, while working within existing resources,” said Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. “This budget protects property tax relief for working families, fully funds the state’s share of K-12 public education and rejects a number of harmful and unnecessary cuts. We are on the record of where we stand and will continue fight for a budget that represents the opportunities Mainers demanded. However, we must move this process forward with purpose, with accountability and with transparency.”
With the Republican controlled Senate expected to take up the budget tomorrow and vote in support of a different report, the budget process could now head to a Committee of Conference. Such a committee would be comprised of three members of the House appointed by the Speaker and three members of the Senate appointed by Senate President Michael Thibodeau.
“Over the past 5 months, members of the Appropriations Committee have tried to find consensus, but it has not been possible,” said Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook), chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “I respect and honor the work of every single member of my committee, but we could not in good conscience ignore the results of the referendum or take these negotiations out of the public eye. In order to continue to do our work, to serve the people of Maine, and to close a budget, we must move this process forward. We must continue our legacy of leadership and we must close this budget before June 30.”
Budget negotiations will continue throughout the week. A final budget must be enacted by June 30 to avoid a state government shutdown.