Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Maine Senators John Patrick, left, D-Rumford, and Roger Katz, R-Augusta, watch the debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, June 26 to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto of the state budget. Both senators voted to overturn the veto.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
Gov. Paul LePage speaks to reporters shortly after the Maine House and Senate both voted to override his veto of the state budget, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at the State House in Augusta, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
UNDER THE COMPROMISE BUDGET
• The state sales tax will increase from 5 percent to 5.5 percent for two years, which will generate $133.8 million in revenue.
• The meals-and-lodgings tax will increase from 7 percent to 8 percent for two years, which will generate $44.6 million in revenue.
• State revenue sharing with cities and towns will be cut by $75 million, which may force some communities to reduce spending or raise property taxes to compensate for the lost revenue.
• The $400 million in income tax cuts the Legislature passed in 2010 will be preserved.
Senate President Justin Alfond said, "This is what we came here to do: work together to find common ground and help our state thrive."
While most lawmakers said the budget was the best possible deal in a government with a Republican governor and a Democratic Legislature, some criticized it as a surrender of their respective parties' values.
Rep. Brian Jones, D-Freedom, called the plan a "dog's lunch."
"This budget does not reflect the shared values of the citizens of the state of Maine," he said.
Jones was the only Democrat to vote to uphold LePage's veto. He was among the nine Democrats who voted against the budget last week. The rest switched their votes Wednesday to override LePage.
Thirty-three Republicans in the House voted to sustain the governor's veto. They, too, had harsh words for the budget.
Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, said it may be a compromise, but it was a compromise of values. He rejected the plan's tax increases, saying that just because "Democrats and Republicans were reaching into your pocket," the impact on Mainers would be no less.
Rep. Lawrence Lockman, R-Amherst, said the budget "prioritized the political class" over ordinary Mainers. He also objected to the funding for public health care programs that provide "Cadillac benefits" to "drug addicts."
"The safety net has been stretched to the breaking point because too many able-bodied freeloaders have jumped in," Lockman said.
The majority of lawmakers said the override was necessary.
Rep. Kathleen Chase, R-Wells, the lead Republican on the Appropriations Committee, which drafted the compromise, said a vote to uphold the veto was a vote for a government shutdown and "chaos."
Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, a co-chair of the committee, said a government shutdown would hurt the state's credit rating and businesses.
Some lawmakers told stories about the last shutdown, when Gov. John McKernan and the Republican minority insisted that the state budget include workers' compensation reforms. The impasse led to a 16-day shutdown in which about 10,000 state workers went without pay and nonessential services were suspended.
Maine's Constitution requires the state government to operate with a balanced budget.
During the floor debate Wednesday, Seth Berry of Bowdoinham, the Democratic House leader, read a list of newspaper headlines that described the effects of the 1991 shutdown. "I won't be a part of a government shutdown," said Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop.
The override was cheered by state workers, many of whom filled the House and Senate galleries Wednesday.
When cheers erupted as the House voted to override the veto, the celebration was quickly gaveled down by Eves.
Donald Pickett, 79, a retired Department of Transportation foreman from Pittston, experienced the state shutdown in 1991. He expressed relief when a reporter told him that the Senate had voted to override the veto.
"Thank God," said Pickett, a volunteer for the Maine State Employees Union. "I am proud of the Republicans and Democrats. They worked out something they could pass."
-- Staff Writer Tom Bell contributed to this report.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:
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Representatives Kenneth Fredette, right, R-Newport, Alexander Willette, R-Mapleton, and Tyler Clark, R-Easton, watch the vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, June 26 to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto of the state budget. Fredette and Clark voted to overturn the veto, while Willette voted to uphold the veto.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy