AUGUSTA — The Maine House voted Thursday night to override all 64 of Gov. Paul LePage’s vetoes of spending initiatives in the two-year, $6.7 billion budget passed by the Legislature this week.

“Our bipartisan budget agreement stands firm,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “The votes tonight are a big win for middle-class families, seniors, students and workers who are one step closer to seeing a tax cut, property tax relief and investments in our schools.”

The House worked quickly to overturn the vetoes, voting 126 times – nearly every item required one vote for each fiscal year – in less than four hours. The chamber erupted into applause after concluding the overrides.

On Friday, the Senate is expected to take up the vetoes of items that called for $60 million in spending.

In a brief interview Thursday morning, the governor said he would veto all bills passed by the Legislature, whether they are sponsored by Democrats or Republicans.

The vetoes cut across a wide swath of state government, including the judiciary, social services for the elderly and mentally ill, economic development, criminal justice and education.


Thursday afternoon, LePage also vetoed 15 spending initiatives worth $2.9 million in the recently approved $1.13 billion two-year highway and transportation budget.

LePage’s moves are certain to delay the end of the legislative session, an outcome that is also likely to increase costs to Maine taxpayers by an estimated $18,000 for each additional day of the session.

The line-item vetoes created chaos at the State House, as legislative leaders and staff in the House and Senate scrambled to prepare for the votes on overturning them.

All told, lawmakers in both bodies will likely have to take 256 separate votes to overturn the governor’s vetoes, which can only reduce dollar amounts, not change language or policy initiatives.

The Legislature needs only a simple majority to override line-item vetoes. However, the votes must be taken in both the House and Senate.

“Obviously it will take a little extra time,” said Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport. “But that is within the governor’s prerogative. He has made that decision that it’s in his best interest, and I guess we’ll deal with the vetoes when they come up.”


All that work voting on each line-item veto could go for naught if the governor vetoes the entire budget, which he is expected to do. He has 10 days, not including Sunday, to act on the budget, and a two-thirds majority of both houses would be required to override a veto.

In his letter to legislators executing his line-item authority, LePage accused lawmakers of crafting a “business-as-usual” spending plan. He also seized on the secretive way that a portion of the budget was assembled, accusing lawmakers and special interest groups of conspiring to create a budget “based on the best interests of a handful of politicians, not what is best for all the people of Maine.”

“Because politicians are so busy capitulating to special interests and kowtowing to social-justice advocates prowling the hallways of the State House, they ignore our elderly, disabled and mentally ill citizens,” he wrote.


However, a review of the governor’s vetoes shows a discrepancy between his current and past rhetoric. In some instances he’s opposing initiatives he has strongly supported in the past, including those that would help the elderly, disabled and mentally ill.

One veto eliminates $183,000 for positions in the state’s Mental Health Services Program, a cut seemingly counter to the governor’s goal of crafting a budget that helps “mentally ill citizens.”


Another veto eliminates $1.4 million in additional funding for the Office of Aging and Disability Services.

Another eliminates a $654,000 allocation to increase funding for the state’s drug court program. In 2014, LePage helped end a dispute that nearly abolished the Cumberland County Drug Court.

LePage also has been a longtime advocate for preventing domestic violence. However, one of his vetoes includes an $81,000 cut for a research assistant position within the Office of the Attorney General. According to the AG’s office, the position assists a panel that reviews domestic violence homicides “with an eye toward identifying systemic barriers or patterns of behavior that might allow for the prevention of future tragedies.” The panel includes prosecutors, police and domestic violence advocates.

Last week, the governor attended a ribbon-cutting at Brunswick Landing to hail the opening of its Technology Accelerator, and he has often described the former naval base as a facility poised for business development. One of his vetoes includes eliminating $410,000 for Southern Maine Community College to support job training partnerships for composites manufacturing, nursing and other industries at Brunswick Landing.


The SMCC cut is in addition to a $5 million veto for funding directed toward the Maine Community College System for workforce development and education. A skilled workforce is a perennial priority for businesses, according to annual surveys by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. LePage has acknowledged the priority throughout his time in office. In a 2011 radio address he said that “proximity to a skilled workforce is one of the primary deciding factors for businesses looking to expand or relocate to particular area.”


Other vetoes include $30 million in local education aid and several cuts to the Fund for a Healthy Maine. The cut in education aid was not mentioned in a statement sent by the governor’s office that said LePage had found $60 million in savings during his review of the budget.

The release did acknowledge that some of the vetoed items “may be worthy of receiving taxpayer funding. However, the governor maintains this funding should not have been snuck into the budget late at night without a public discussion about the merits of each initiative.”

LePage said in the interview Thursday morning that his actions are a response to the Legislature’s defeat of a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the state income tax by 2020. The governor says defeating the bill disenfranchised voters, who would have the final say in ratifying the amendment.

Republicans have supported the proposed constitutional amendment, so it’s unclear why LePage is now vowing to veto their bills, too. However, he has been critical of Republicans, including Thibodeau, the Senate president, for their role in the budget compromise.

The governor also lashed out at the lead Democrat on the budget committee, Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston. He said Rotundo was adept at manipulating a budget mechanism that diverts surplus revenue to state programs.

“She is an architect of pork,” LePage said. “She should be a pig farmer.”


Rotundo responded, “This was a bipartisan budget, crafted on compromise. I have devoted the past 23 years of my life as an elected official fighting my hardest to protect children, elderly and other truly vulnerable people in my community and in Maine. This is who I am. I’d prefer not to dignify the governor’s disrespectful statements with any further comment.”


During each budget cycle, the Legislature’s budget committee and top lawmakers use a mechanism known as the cascade to prioritize how surplus revenue should be spent. In 2011, the Republican-controlled Legislature re-prioritized the cascade so that surplus revenues would go toward lowering the state income tax.

The governor has argued for the elimination of the cascade so that surplus revenue can build the state’s emergency rainy day fund.

LePage’s 64 line-item vetoes are far less than the “hundreds” he promised to deliver during a media event Wednesday, when he used a pink rubber pig and a miniature Christmas tree festooned with photos of top legislators for props. The governor accused lawmakers from both parties of approving a spending plan negotiated in secret and laden with “piggy projects.” At least twice he picked up the rubber pig toy and squeezed it to make his point. When he did, the pig squeaked.

The news conference was designed to underscore the governor’s dissatisfaction with a budget that jettisoned many of his key initiatives.


House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, dismissed the governor’s event as another example of him “lashing out” at lawmakers for crafting a budget without him and in a bipartisan compromise.

“This is a budget that will provide (tax relief to middle-income Mainers), property tax relief and money for education,” McCabe said. “I didn’t hear the governor talk about the positives in this budget. Instead he made a little arts-and-crafts project and then he locked himself in his office.”

Eves declined to respond directly to a question about whether he thought LePage was intentionally attempting to slow down the Legislature during the final days of the session.

“Our goal is to prevent the shutdown of state government,” he said.

The governor’s line-item vetoes were received by the House clerk around 8 a.m. Thursday.

According to preliminary estimates from the legislative director’s office, lawmakers received their last paycheck June 10, but they can still receive expense reimbursement if the legislative session is extended. That would cost an estimated $100 per day for each of the 186 lawmakers.

On Wednesday, LePage indicated that his veto spree was partially motivated by retribution over his budget plan.

“For five months they wasted our time. This time I am going to waste a little bit of their time,” he said.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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