AUGUSTA –– Deploying a miniature Christmas tree and a pink rubber pig for props, Gov. Paul LePage vowed Wednesday to line-item veto “several hundred” initiatives in the $6.7 billion, two-year budget passed by the Legislature.

The governor made the announcement during an impromptu news conference outside his office at the State House. He accused legislators from both parties – depicted as ornaments on the Christmas tree – of approving a spending plan negotiated in secret and laden with “piggy projects.” At least twice he picked up the rubber pig toy and squeezed it to make his point. When he did, the pig squeaked.

The media event was designed to underscore the governor’s dissatisfaction with a budget that jettisoned many of his key initiatives. Using his line-item veto power would be certain to disrupt a legislative session that was expected to end by Friday.

“For five months they wasted our time. This time I am going to waste a little bit of their time,” LePage said.

The governor made specific reference to what’s known as the “cascade” in the budget. The cascade uses surplus money to fund initiatives that are approved by the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, and ultimately by legislative leadership.

LePage cited one particular initiative, a $300,000 resolve to study the feasibility of extending passenger rail service to Bangor. He said the study and other such initiatives are pet projects that divert taxpayer money from more pressing needs.

“This is really sad because this is what goes on and it has been going on for years,” LePage said. “We need Mainers to understand their government is corrupt and we need to have Mainers demand better.”

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, dismissed the governor’s news conference as another example of him “lashing out” at lawmakers. McCabe said the budget was the result of a bipartisan compromise that sought to balance the priorities of Republicans and Democrats.

“He had some priorities, the Democrats had some priorities, Republicans had some priorities,” he said. “We came together and compromised and came up with a budget. This is a budget that will provide (tax relief to middle-income Mainers), property tax relief and money for education. I didn’t hear the governor talk about the positives in this budget.”

McCabe added, “Instead he made a little arts and crafts project and then he locked himself in his office.”

He said it would take a day, maybe two, just to vote on overriding LePage’s line-item vetoes..

The governor must issue line-item vetoes within 24 hours of receiving the budget, which was delivered at 8:08 a.m. Wednesday. By law, he can only reduce dollar amounts, not change language or policy initiatives.

The Legislature needs only a simple majority to override line-item vetoes. However, the votes must be taken in both the House and Senate. That means the Legislature could be facing “several hundred” roll call votes if LePage follows through on his promise.

The governor also can veto the entire budget, which he is expected to do. He has 10 days, not including Sunday, to act on the budget, and a two-thirds majority of both houses would be required to override it.

According to preliminary estimates from the legislative director’s office, lawmakers received their last paycheck June 10, but they can still receive expense reimbursement if the legislative session is extended. That would cost an estimated $100 per day for each of the 186 lawmakers.

The Legislature approved the budget early Wednesday. It is a compromise hatched in secret by top legislative leaders and kept under tight wraps until just before voting began. The secrecy of the deal has drawn sharp criticism from government transparency advocates.

The Democrat-controlled House voted 105-42 to approve the deal endorsed by the Legislature’s budget committee June 6, as well as a separate amendment that incorporated the agreement drafted by leaders after weeks of closed-door negotiations. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 34-1 to ratify the deal, which is needed to avoid a government shutdown.

LePage has dismissed the threat of a shutdown as “scare tactics,” arguing that the state can adopt a temporary budget. Attorney General Janet Mills has countered that a temporary budget would violate the Maine Constitution’s requirement for balanced budget.