AUGUSTA – The House and Senate may vote as soon as Tuesday on the supplemental budget, a mix of cuts and increased spending designed to keep the state budget balanced through June 30.

The budget received unanimous, bipartisan support from the Appropriations Committee just before midnight Friday.

Major spending initiatives in the budget include nearly $70 million for hospitals to pay past-due debt and $73 million for the state’s Medicaid program.

Cuts came from state agencies that curtailed $9.5 million in spending dating back to last fall, vacant positions at the Department of Health and Human Services that totaled $2.5 million, and more than $5 million that was saved because the state did not need to borrow money, said Rep. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, House chairman of the committee.

Much of the spending is paid for by an additional $111 million in state revenue.

“We were trying to do our best to support the governor’s initiatives,” Flood said. “We did pretty well from that standpoint.”

While the budget is largely the same as the one proposed by Gov. Paul LePage, the legislative committee did make some changes, Flood said.

Those changes include an additional $600,000 for dairy farmers, whose price support program will run out of money this month. Members of the Agriculture Committee asked for $1.2 million last week when they became aware of the funding problem in the dairy stabilization program.

Flood said Appropriations was unable to find the full amount, but found money in the Department of Agriculture budget in the areas of pesticides control and marketing, to come up with the $600,000. Also, the budget-writers added $50,000 to a school breakfast program that helps children who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Republican and Democratic legislative leaders praised the committee for putting out a bipartisan budget.

“Both Republicans and Democrats came together in the spirit of true compromise, and their diligence resulted in an efficiently delivered, unanimous budget for the consideration of the full Legislature next week,” House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, and Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, said in a joint statement.

House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said the committee set a good tone heading into negotiations over the larger two-year budget that is due to be released Thursday or Friday.

The supplemental budget, which needs support from two-thirds of the Legislature to take effect immediately, is on a fast track. The state stands to lose out on federal matching money for hospital payments and additional Medicaid money if a vote does not take place soon, Flood said. Also, because of increased demand, one portion of the Medicaid program is expected to run out of money by the middle of the month, he said.

The committee voted in an additional $1 million for municipalities that was not part of LePage’s budget. It dedicated $300,000 to the state’s Commission on Indigent Legal Services, also not in the original proposal.

Lawmakers agreed with LePage to have Maine tax code comply with federal regulations in many areas, which will cost the state $4.5 million. Projections from the LePage administration show 100,000 Mainers will benefit from the tax changes.

The committee agreed with a LePage proposal to restore the position of commissioner at the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. The position, which is paid for by regulated industries, had been eliminated by Gov. John Baldacci, who asked one of his bureau chiefs to also serve as commissioner.

LePage wanted to put $1.1 million in the state’s rainy day fund, but lawmakers reduced that to $700,000, Flood said.

The committee agreed to cut $125,000 from the Doctors for Maine’s Future Scholarship Program with the understanding that no students currently receiving the money would be affected. Flood said the committee supports the program, and that it added language to the budget that requires the money to be restored before it would have any impact on students.

“The committee was great,” Flood said. “They just worked really hard to work together.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan M. Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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