Here to oppose cell F:5: The Legislature’s budget writing committee will begin a series of public hearings on two proposals designed to fill gaps in the state budget for the current and next fiscal years.

Anyone who has been following the build-up to this process knows by now that the whole thing is completely unorthodox, if not unprecedented. That’s because Gov. Paul LePage has decided that he’s not participating and won’t submit a budget proposal.

The public hearings that begin Tuesday are a case in point. Typically public hearings are held on specific proposals accompanied by actual legislation drafted in the form of a bill. That won’t be the case Tuesday. There are no bills, no language detailing cuts or the funding mechanisms. There are, however, colorful spreadsheets with all of the potential proposals that could end up in two separate budget bills.

Here’s the one for fiscal 2014.

Here’s the other for fiscal 2015.

So, in other words, when the public and lobbyists testify this week, they’ll be testifying on spending or reduction initiatives contained in those spreadsheets, not actual legislation. The actual bill will be constructed later when the committee and legislative leaders decide in closed-door caucus meetings what should be in the budget proposals. 

Medicaid vote: L.D. 1487, the Medicaid expansion / managed care combination bill backed by Republican Sens. Roger Katz and Thomas Saviello isn’t on Tuesday’s Senate calendar, but it could end up there as early as Wednesday.

The proposal has a tenuous fate following the Health and Human Services Committee party line vote Monday to approve the bill. While it was unlikely that most of the Republicans on the panel would have backed the measure, expansion supporters also lost the support of Rep. Carol McElwee, R-Caribou, one of several Republicans to vote for expansion last year. 

Republicans have said McElwee’s vote against the L.D. 1487 is a sign that the momentum has swung against expansion. On Monday, supporters of expansion privately conceded that they needed some kind of push if the compromise bill is going to have a chance to gain veto-proof margins in the Senate and House.

Supporters of expansion had hoped that the push would come from an endorsement from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, but so far the chamber hasn’t emerged as a supporter of the Katz-Saviello plan. Its policy committee has not taken a position on the bill even though the chamber had been involved in negotiating the compromise.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the first vote in the Senate fails to attain the veto-proof margin that will eventually be needed. There’s some speculation that Democrats will abandon the compromise bill and push House Speaker Mark Eves’ expansion bill if it looks like there isn’t enough Republican support for the Katz-Saviello plan. There are political and policy reasons for such a move, including the fact that Democrats and many of their aligned interest groups aren’t ultra-thrilled about a managed care Medicaid system.

LePage presser: The governor just announced that he’s holding a rare press conference on the ongoing battle over the recently passed measure to restore $40 million in funding to municipalities. LePage and the Democratic majority have been going back and forth over the proposal, which the governor last week allowed to become law

Nonpolitical item: Extreme weather + reporters  = Getting stuck in the mud and whitewashed by a snow plow (h/t Gawker):