AUGUSTA – A legislative committee endorsed an emergency bill Wednesday that would allow school districts to spend unexpected state funds without holding referendums to get voters’ approval.

The $6.3 billion, two-year state budget that lawmakers approved Wednesday includes an extra $29 million for schools, but voters in most districts have already approved school budgets for the year starting July 1.

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Under state law, districts would have to open the polls again to get voters’ approval to spend the extra money.

Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, introduced a bill, L.D. 1566, to create a one-time exemption from the school budget referendum process.

“While I certainly understand that this is a good problem for (school districts) to have, we can help them put these much-needed funds to work sooner and without additional financial burdens,” said Millett, the Senate chair of the Legislature’s Education Committee.

Under Millett’s bill, a school board could approve the use of the additional money by holding a public meeting and having residents vote at that meeting. A district also could use the referendum process.

The committee endorsed the bill, 10-2.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan spoke in favor of the bill Wednesday, saying it would cost Portland as much as $12,000 to open the polls.

Votes on the bill were pending Wednesday night in the House and Senate.