A roll call is taken in the House on Wednesday at the State House. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

AUGUSTA — The Maine House of Representatives and Senate were still at odds early Thursday morning over what should be included in a supplemental budget, with both chambers voting to add $60 million in storm relief into the proposal before them, but the Senate also looking to add about $7 million in spending on additional items.

The Senate voted shortly after midnight for an amended version of the budget bill, L.D. 2214, that includes some of the same provisions attached to a storm relief bill Gov. Janet Mills had proposed as a standalone item separate from the budget. The vote was 17-16.

“No budget is perfect,” said Sen. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, who proposed the amended version adopted. “No process is perfect. But I do think each of these items makes a meaningful amount of progress towards issues we hear everyday. I don’t think we can wait to see if they magically fix themselves. I think we need to put the wheels in motion now.”

The House then voted 75-66 on a different amended version of the bill that included the storm relief but not the other items from the Senate, which was expected to take the bill up again around 2 a.m. Thursday.

Grohoski and other supporters of the amendment in the Senate argued it would make meaningful changes to longstanding issues, including challenges facing veterans homes, pay for school support staff, and recruitment and retention of workers.

At the same time, Mills had told lawmakers in a letter Wednesday that she would sign a different version of the budget approved by the appropriations committee and would veto the storm relief bill, L.D. 2225, if it arrived at her desk amended.


A spokesperson for the governor did not respond to a phone message early Thursday seeking her reaction to the latest changes.

The appropriations committee version of the bill calls for $127 million in general fund appropriations for the remainder of the biennium, plus additional one-time spending of $242 million for a total of $370 million. It would add to the current $10.34 billion biennial state budget.

It includes $76 million to increase affordable housing through investments in emergency housing, low-income housing tax credits and the state’s Affordable Homeownership and Rural Affordable Rental Housing programs; $21 million to ensure the state continues to share the total cost of funding K-12 education at 55%; and $26 million to support nursing homes.

It also includes $14.1 million to fully fund the income eligibility expansion for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program, also known as the Medicare Savings Programs; $12.9 million in child care investments; and $19.6 million in mental and public health funds for mobile response services, crisis receiving centers and other investments.

And it includes $9 million to repair storm damage and give local governments more resources to build storm resilience.

It increases pay for education technicians and support staff by adding language from L.D. 974, and it protects current funding for York Hospital by exempting it from a proposed hospital rate reform.


“This is a good budget,” said Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, Senate chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “It is the result of long hours, careful consideration and deliberate negotiations. And it is the result of compromise. Like all compromises, it’s not the perfect budget any one person would want to see, but it is a solid, responsible budget.”

The amendment the Senate added Thursday includes the $60 million Mills had pitched in the separate bill, along with what would be $7 million in additional appropriations this biennium, according to the fiscal note attached to the bill.

It would include $1.8 million in the coming year for expanded eligibility for case management services for people who are receiving treatment for substance use disorders and $5 million for state reimbursement of veterans homes. It also would include an increase in the rate of pay for ed techs and school support staff beyond what is in the appropriations’ committee version, and recruitment and retention incentives for state employees.

The Senate approved the amendment after heated debate over the appropriations process and things Republicans wanted to see in the budget, including more funding for rural nursing homes.

“Something is fundamentally wrong with the budget process that gives its weight to the administration rather than the people of Maine,” said Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, a member of the appropriations committee. “This budget does not arrest the destruction of our nursing home facilities across rural Maine. As I’ve said earlier, we have lost in my district alone, two nursing facilities in the last few years, and in rural Maine this is destructive of communities and families.”

Bennett also criticized Mills’ letter to lawmakers saying they should approve the budget as passed by the appropriations committee earlier this week in order for her to sign it.

“This reads like a letter from Vladimir Putin to his Duma rather than an executive who is charged with executing the laws of a state and respecting the independent branch of government that the Legislature is,” Bennett said.

“What have we been reduced to in this Senate, in this Legislature, where we adopt whatever the administration wants?” he asked.

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