Legislators meet in hopes of ending state budget stalemate
AUGUSTA (WGME) -- Sunday morning, legislators are meeting to rehash the state budget in hopes of ending the government shutdown.
The Committee of Conference reconvened to discuss the state budget at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Lawmakers say they received three additional budget proposals since agreeing on one Friday night. House Speaker Gideon says that she is "furious" that lawmakers at learning about new changes to what was discussed on Saturday.
House Republicans think Gov LePage would sign the new proposal. Other lawmakers aim to compromise in hopes of passing a proposal that does not require the governor's signature.
Lawmakers say they could meet multiple times Sunday as negotiations continue.
Representatives left to chants of "shame" early Saturday morning when failure to pass the new state budget triggered a state government shutdown for the first time since 1991.
The midnight deadline for lawmakers to pass a new state budget needed two-thirds support of both the house and senate to take effect immediately and override any veto by the governor.
Friday night, lawmakers were still trying to work out a deal to keep state government running even after the deadline had passed.
The governor also signed an emergency order allowing many services including law enforcement, general assistance payments, state parks and other services to continue at least through Monday.
The governor indicated he would introduce his own bill late Friday night but legislative leaders said there was no time to print and review it before the midnight deadline.
The original legislative deal called for getting rid of the voter-approved surtax on high-income Mainers, while finding other ways to give more money for education, but those "other ways" included an increase in the lodging tax, which the governor says is a deal breaker.
Earlier Friday, the governor insisted he's doing what's best for Maine's future, and refused to sign onto that plan.
"This is about the future of Maine. The Maine people are taxed enough. I will not tax them anymore and in my budget overall taxes were decreased. Maine has plenty of revenue to fund state government without raising taxes."
Lawmakers did get more than two-thirds of the vote at one point in the senate, required for the budget to take effect immediately, once approved by the governor, but they didn't get that in the house, and now a new round of negotiations are underway.
Maine courts issued a statement on what to expect during the shutdown on their website. At least one courthouse in each county will remain open.
Protests against the shutdown began Saturday morning.
Protesters marched to the state house and took to chanting in front of the house chambers. Inside the state house, angry protesters gathered to give and listen to impassioned speeches.
Several Maine lawmakers responded to the shutdown. Speaker of the House Sara Gideon said in a press release,
“I am angered, but also deeply saddened by the failure of the legislature to pass a budget. Democrats and Senate Republicans have exhausted every possibility to prevent this outcome. I am scared for the workers who don’t know when they’ll get their next paycheck, for the businesses whose work will come grinding to a halt, and the stability of our economy, now twice scarred with the uncertainty of a government shutdown.
“Make no mistake, this shutdown was not necessary. And make no mistake I will continue to do everything in my power to end it.”
Representative Chellie Pingree also weighed in with a statement on Twitter, saying the shutdown was "harmful to working families in Maine."