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Maine legislature passes biennial budget

The budget passed with a simple majority and no Republican support.
Maine State Legislature back in session debating state budget
Maine State Legislature back in session debating state budget
Published: Mar. 30, 2021 at 10:29 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Almost a week after Maine Republicans expressed concerns about being shut out of negotiating the state’s biennial budget, Democrats passed the biennial budget without Republican support.

”There’s no real reason to drive this thing through,” said Rep. John Ducharme (R).

Democrats say they were prepared to push the budget through with or without help from Republicans, who say Democrats skipped important deliberations in crafting a full biennial budget.

Democratic leaders say their $8.4 billion proposal was based on the 2019 budget the legislature approved with bipartisan support.

″All of my caucus members have priorities besides the budget that they’d like to see done this year, but we didn’t put any of those in there because we want to be sincere and honest that this is a continuation of the 2019 budget, and I hopeful that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will understand that,” said Senate President Troy Jackson (D).

Many Republicans asked for the bill to be sent back to committee, adding a push for unity.

“This is just plain wrong. We will undermine the opportunity to work together to develop cooperation and to work together in the future,” said Rep. Richard Bradstreet (R).

Democratic lawmakers warned of the consequences of a government shutdown if the budget didn’t pass.

″What this guarantees is that our quirky, messy process, does not cause the people of Maine pain, does not shut down the tourism industry in a summer when they need to be functioning in full force,” said Sen. Mark Lawrence (D).

We asked senate leaders if this worries them about bipartisan efforts moving forward.

”It certainly does, but not as much as bipartisan work going all to pieces and having a state shutdown this July,” said Jackson.

″It will be messy, I suspect. They make the story that we’ll work together with two-thirds, but they proved today that they didn’t need two-thirds. So why are they gonna need two-thirds in the future,” said Sen. Jeff Timberlake (R).

One Democratic Senator, Bill Diamond of Windham, did vote in opposition to the budget.

The budget needed a two-thirds vote to go into effect immediately.

With just a majority vote, the legislature will adjourn and Governor Mills will need to sign the budget in the next few days for it go into effect by July 1st, the start of the new fiscal year.

In response to the vote, Governor Mills said that the budget discussions are not over, and that there’s much more work to be done.

She released a statement, saying, in part, “While I am disappointed our Republican colleagues did not support it, passing and enacting this budget now provides much-needed stability and ensures continuity of services during this ongoing pandemic.” She says she will sign the budget when it reaches her desk.

The Maine Senate Republicans also released a statement following the vote. In it, Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake says, “This was done without deliberation, negotiation, or collaboration. Taking this approach and silencing the voices of more than a half-million Mainers is simply wrong. This is why this tactic is almost never used, and why, when it is used, it does great harm to the legislative process indefinitely.”

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