AUGUSTA — A revised version of Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed supplemental budget, with less severe cuts to General Assistance, will go before the Legislature this week.

Just before midnight Monday, the Appropriations Committee gave unanimous approval to the budget, which is needed to address a shortfall in the two-year, $6 billion budget that ends June 30.

The committee rejected several of LePage’s proposals and scaled back others.

The most contentious issue involved state funding to cities and towns for General Assistance. LePage proposed cuts that would have affected large cities like Portland and Bangor the most, while cutting back help for all municipalities. A group of mayors formed a coalition to lobby against the changes, and lawmakers worked to blunt the impact.

Overall, cities and towns stand to get an additional $10 million this fiscal year and next to help pay for General Assistance to address “chronic underfunding,” said Sen. Richard Rosen, R-Bucksport, Senate chair of the Appropriations Committee.

The committee also approved new limits in the program.


The proposal would reduce assistance levels by 10 percent, limit the General Assistance housing program to 270 days, reduce reimbursement for large cities from 90 percent to 85 percent and create a working group to recommend future changes.

The bill also would establish seven family independence specialist positions to help veterans and others enroll in federal programs if they need help. The jobs would be for a two-year period.

Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said committee members agreed that the General Assistance program needs an overhaul.

“Everybody needs to take a step back and look at it thoroughly,” she said. “One thing I was concerned about was not making changes that would have unintended consequences.”

The committee’s changes are not sitting well with the LePage administration.

LePage’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said the governor wanted to make structural changes. He proposed cutting large cities’ reimbursement from 90 percent to 50 percent and limiting housing to 90 days, among other things.


“We have a forward-thinking governor who’s looking down the road, and we have legislators who are kicking the can down the road,” she said.

LePage, who was in New York on Tuesday to participate in an economic conference, will be briefed on the budget today, she said.

During negotiations last week, the committee rejected the proposed elimination of all state funding for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network and a proposed $2.4 million cut from higher education.

The budget that is expected to be considered in the House on Thursday would add funding for court security, the state computer crimes lab and legal services for the indigent.

The committee rejected three tax cuts proposed by LePage, including an initiative to lower the income tax on pensions. The other two proposals would have exempted from the income tax active-duty military pay earned outside Maine and provided a sales tax reimbursement to commercial wood harvesters and greenhouses.

Rosen said the committee didn’t have enough time to consider the proposals.


Rotundo said the tax cuts troubled Democrats because they weren’t funded.

The committee still has one more budget to vote on because of a shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services. The Legislature is expected to come back in May to consider that budget to address an estimated $100 million deficit.


State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:


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