AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic legislative leaders remain at odds over the need for a special lawmaking session that LePage says is necessary to fix funding flaws with four bills passed earlier this year.

But after about a 30-minute, closed-door meeting Wednesday, outgoing House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said the Legislature would not be calling itself back to work in 2016.

“The Legislature did their work and we overrode the governor’s vetoes, not just on these four bills, but on about 60 percent of the governor’s vetoes,” Eves said. “The governor made clear his objections, and we made clear that we were not going to be coming back in and the ball is in his court.”

LePage could use his executive authority to convene the Legislature, which the Maine Constitution says he may do under “extraordinary occasions,” but it remained unclear Wednesday whether he would do so.

Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s press secretary, said LePage had a few options available to him.

“It’s unclear right now what the next step is,” Bennett said. “He may consider calling them back, he can do nothing or can spend what little money we have in reserves to address these issues.”



The new laws in question include ones that set up a needle exchange program for opioid addicts; increase pay for workers at the state’s forensic mental health hospital, the Riverview Psychiatric Center; study the reimbursement rates for ambulance services covered under the state’s Medicaid programs; and provide about $2.5 million in one-time funding to the state’s 15 jails run by county governments.

Bennett said LePage was engaging lawmakers in hopes of finding solutions but Democratic leaders were, “washing their hands” and “abdicating” their responsibility to lead.

Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, the House minority leader, sided with LePage and said the laws in question need to be corrected and that his Democratic colleagues were offering no space for compromise.

Fredette said LePage hadn’t resorted to simply calling a special session on his own because he didn’t want to be criticized for being a bully by not first attempting to negotiate with Democratic leaders.

“The governor has clearly identified four problems and (asked): ‘How can we work together to solve these problems?’ but Democrats simply said no. “I think that’s unfortunate. It does leave in limbo the status of four bills.”



Fredette said the fact that Republican lawmakers joined Democrats to override LePage’s veto of the jail funding bill wasn’t necessarily a sign Republicans agreed with Democrats on the underlying issue of how the state should be funding its county jails long-term.

“I think the bill had been amended in a way that you either had to fund the jails or not but not actually solve the problem,” he said. Lawmakers should have lifted a state cap on property taxes that counties must abide by when it comes to raising local revenue for jails, Fredette said.

Jail funding has been a perennial issue at the State House and lawmakers have been unable to find a long-term funding compromise, even though they have tried to during the last two regular legislative sessions.

The meeting Wednesday between Eves, Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, Fredette and Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport was unusual for LePage, who unlike most of his predecessors, seldom calls legislative leaders to the negotiating table.

Both Alfond and Eves have said LePage has no good reason to call lawmakers back to Augusta at a cost to state taxpayers of $37,900 to $43,000 a day.

Eves reiterated that Wednesday, saying LePage was playing politics in an election year.

“I haven’t found one Maine citizen that said it’s OK to come in during an election year and spend $40,000 (a day) to come in and play political theater,” Eves said. “We just are not going to do it.”


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