AUGUSTA — Maine legislative leaders announced late Monday night that they had struck a bipartisan budget deal that contains tax cuts, welfare reforms and additional education investments.

But they did not release the specifics of the agreement, which needs two-thirds approval in both chambers of the Legislature in the coming days to avert a government shutdown, the threat of which has loomed over the often-tense budget negotiations.

According to a news release sent on behalf of the four Republican and Democratic leaders, the budget compromise would lower taxes, provide property tax relief to homeowners, invest in education programs and reform welfare. Income tax cuts and welfare reform have emerged as the top sticking points between Democrats and House Republicans aligned with Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

The House and Senate are expected to consider the budget compromise on Tuesday.

“I believe this budget has something for everyone in Maine,” said Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, in a prepared statement. “We were sent here to represent them, and I am pleased that we were able to lower their tax burden while at the same time take steps to keep property taxes in check and fund vital state services.”

“In divided government, compromise is the only option, ” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, in a statement. “I’m pleased we’ve reached an agreement that will grow our economy and improve the lives of Maine families. While no one in our negotiations got everything they wanted, we worked hard to deliver progress for the people of Maine.”

The four legislative leaders – Eves, Thibodeau, House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland – have been meeting since early this month to resolve the differences. But the negotiations – held entirely behind closed doors – have been marred by setbacks.

Late last week, the leaders appeared to be closing in on a compromise that would lower income taxes but the deal fell apart, prompting Democrats and House Republicans to blame each other.

Legislative leaders are under pressure to pass a budget by Wednesday or Thursday to give the Legislature time to respond to a threatened veto by LePage. The governor has 10 days, not including Sundays, to sign, veto or allow the budget bill to become law.

If a budget is not adopted by July 1, Maine could have its first state government shutdown since 1991, although LePage has offered to propose a short-term budget to keep government offices open while negotiations continue.
No other information was available early Tuesday on the compromise.