Gov. Janet Mills signed a $9.8 billion two-year budget on Friday despite unified opposition by Republicans, saying it was necessary to prevent the chance of a government shutdown this summer.

Democrats who hold majorities in the Legislature passed the budget late Thursday night after Republicans protested the action during several hours of sometimes emotional debate.

Gov. Janet Mills delivers her State of the Budget address on Feb. 14 at the State House in Augusta. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Mills’ signature on Friday means the budget will take effect at the end of June and will maintain state services when the new fiscal year starts July 1. But the budget does not include hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenues the state expects to collect over the next two years. And that means the partisan debate about whether to expand programs or reduce taxes is still heating up.

“I would have preferred to sign a budget that has bipartisan support, but the possibility of a government shutdown – which would be extremely harmful to Maine people – is something I cannot accept,” Mills said in a written statement. “This current services budget averts the potential for a shutdown, funds essential government services, and delivers certainty and stability to municipalities, school systems, and others that rely on state resources.

“This should not – and will not – be the last word on the budget. I recognize that tensions are high, but there is still a lot of work left to do, with room – I believe – for compromise,” the statement said. “I urge Democrats and Republicans to reset and to begin anew the work of negotiating their priorities during the next round of budget discussions. I look forward to continuing to engage with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to find common ground.”

Mills also signed a proclamation calling the Legislature back into session next Wednesday. Democrats officially adjourned the session Thursday night because a budget without the support of two-thirds of the Legislature does not take effect until 90 days after adjournment.


Republicans continued their criticism of the budget move Friday. The party’s leaders had called on Democrats to commit to tax reductions in part two of the budget, but Democrats refused to attach any conditions to what they described as a continuing services budget.

The Maine House Republicans issued a statement Friday calling out Democrats for officially adjourning the Legislature as a procedural maneuver to pass a party-line budget.

“Democrats were so desperate to avoid giving $200 million (2% of their budget) in income tax relief to taxpayers, especially low- to middle-income earners, they used a procedural loophole to circumvent the bipartisan budget process envisioned by the Maine Constitution,” the statement said. “Maine people want us to work together on their behalf. Republicans will not rest until Mainers get to keep more of their hard-earned money.”

The Maine Republican Party criticized the budget in an email to members on Friday seeking donations to help win a June 13 special election for an open seat representing Waldoboro and surrounding towns.

“Democrats have passed a majority budget spending spree without listening to Republican calls to cut taxes for middle and low-income Mainers,” the email says. “We have fallen off the path, and the only way to restore sanity in Maine is to put more Republicans in the state legislature.”

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, celebrated the budget votes in written statements late Thursday.

“Maine families and communities are counting on us to deliver the security and stability to plan for the future  — and that’s exactly what we have delivered in Part 1 of this biennial budget,” said House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland. “Funding continuing services is both a win for Maine families and for responsible state government.

Talbot Ross said “this two-part budget removes the political gamesmanship from ongoing discussions regarding new spending,” and that bipartisan negotiations will continue regarding the second piece of the budget.

Rep. Melanie Sachs, D-Freeport, is a member of the Legislature’s budget committee and said the portion of the budget passed this week ensures the state will live up to its commitments and pay for vital services while allowing for continued negotiations. “There is much more work ahead and we’re ready to stay at the table to keep making progress for Maine people.”

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