Gov. Janet Mills desires a bipartisan state finances, however she has been cautious to not commit to at least one with Maine’s political events attempting to protect their leverage in high-stakes negotiations.
When the Democratic governor rolled out her $10.3 billion spending plan this month, she mentioned it was a doc that ought to win consensus within the State Home, the place two-year budgets sometimes are handed by two-thirds majorities earlier than a June 30 deadline to avert state shutdowns.
Democrats alone may cross a finances by the tip of March, as they did in 2021. Legislative Republicans mentioned they requested Mills to decide to a two-thirds course of throughout fraught December negotiations over a heating help bundle. Whereas the governor declined, she has mentioned one is her purpose and members of the minority social gathering assume they’ll hold a deal on observe.
“I take her at her phrase,” mentioned Home Minority Chief Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor.
The alternate between Mills’ workplace exhibits how the edges have positioned themselves forward of finances talks that may start this week with hearings on a short-term a part of the plan this week. Lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee are set to take testimony on the bigger piece of the governor’s finances plan subsequent month.
Senate Minority Chief Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, confirmed the alternate late final 12 months between legislative Republicans and the governor’s workplace. Mills’ workplace didn’t reply to a Monday request for remark. A number of Democrats on the finances panel additionally didn’t reply.
State budgets are probably the most difficult issues negotiated in Augusta. They normally lead to grand bargains carved out over months. Democratic majorities imply Mills and her social gathering are more likely to get most of what they need, whereas Republicans ought to win concessions in alternate for delivering the votes wanted to cross it by supermajorities in each chambers.
Mills’ bundle would hike the state finances over $10 billion for the primary time, conserving earnings taxes flat whereas persevering with to fund Ok-12 schooling and municipal help at statutory ranges. It dedicates tens of tens of millions extra to free faculty meals, a free group faculty program, well being care applications and rental housing.
Whereas Senate Republicans held up the heating help that contained $450 aid checks for many Mainers for a few month, they mentioned they needed to raised fund nursing properties and providers for individuals with developmental disabilities. After Mills’ finances despatched extra to a few of these applications, Republicans praised these strikes whereas criticizing the general quantity absent a tax minimize.
“I believe possibly there’s some methods to deal with a few of that stuff with out rising the baseline that a lot,” Faulkingham mentioned. “That can in all probability be my greatest concern.”
Two years in the past, Democrats cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a significant purpose for advancing their very own finances earlier than the tip of March, permitting it to take impact that June. It was the primary time a two-year finances had been handed by a easy majority since 2005, although lawmakers up to date the doc later in 2021 by consensus.
Rep. Sawin Millett, R-Waterford, a high member of the finances committee, mentioned that may be a “burden that each events must face.”
“And I’m optimistic we are able to get there,” he mentioned.