February 24, 2013

LePage won't sign $153 million bipartisan budget

With almost unanimous support, LePage can't successfully veto the bill, so he'll let it take effect without his signature.

From staff reports

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage said Friday he'll let the state's $153-million emergency budget take effect without his signature, because lawmakers did not fulfill his health and human services funding requests as part of the spending package.

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Gov. Paul LePage

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

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LePage could have vetoed the supplemental budget, but since it passed both chambers of the Legislature with more than two-thirds support, lawmakers would likely have overridden his veto. The House approved the measure 129-14, and the Senate passed it 35-0.

In a letter to legislators Friday, LePage said their budget could mean another supplemental budget is needed before the fiscal year ends in June.

"The committees that worked on this bill arbitrarily decided to not fully fund our requirements because they wanted to restore funding in other programs," he wrote. "That is not a responsible way to budget, and I am concerned the Legislature may have forced us to return with another request before the year ends."

In a separate news release, LePage ticked off recommendations not enacted by the Appropriations Committee, including a proposed $10.1 million cap on general assistance to municipalities. He also said the budget delayed Medicaid payments to providers and reduced foster-care funding from his recommended amount.

The Legislature followed some of the governor's spending cuts and not others.

"The overwhelming majority of Republicans and Democrats thought this was a more responsible budget than the one proposed," said House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham. "It still becomes law and it's better than what he proposed."

In addition to rejecting the general assistance cap, lawmakers also negotiated a deal to preserve the state-funded program that provides drugs for the elderly.

LePage's letter also foreshadowed the upcoming biennial budget, which lawmakers will wrestle with in coming weeks, saying "government is larger than we can afford."

"Taking money from various other programs to pay for one we cannot afford is irresponsible," he wrote. "Instead of dialing for dollars or robbing Peter to pay Paul, it is time to summon the courage to make real, structural changes."

But Berry said LePage's proposed biennial budget, which notably zeroes out more than $400 million in state revenue sharing to municipalities, doesn't do what LePage wants the Legislature to do -- find structural changes.

"I could not agree more with that statement," Berry said. "The irony of it is the governor's biennial budget ... fails to make structural changes and shifts the burden to the property taxpayers and the middle class."

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