Maine lawmakers convened at the Augusta Civic Center on Tuesday to tackle the state’s next two-year spending plan. The budget bill – LD 715, which never received a public hearing – was approved along party lines, the first majority biennial budget passed in Maine since 2005.
Majority Democrats in the House voted 77-67 in favor of the plan while their allies in the Senate approved the package by a 20-14 vote. Independents joined Republicans in opposition to the plan in the House while two Democrats, Sens. Bill Diamond and Chloe Maxmin, broke ranks to vote with minority Republicans in the upper chamber.
The budget totals $8.33 billion in spending over the biennium, though additional spending is sure to come in future supplemental spending bills. The state is awaiting new reports from the economic forecasting commission and revenue forecasting committee, as well as guidance from the federal government on how to spend the estimated $1 billion Maine will receive from the recent stimulus passed by Congress, before piling on more spending.
“Nothing in their one page ‘budget’ proposal constitutes an emergency needing action in March, without hearing from the sixteen policy committees, Consensus Forecasting Commission, Revenue Forecasting Committee, and details on the American Rescue Plan (federal relief funds),” said Rep. Sawin Millett in a release. “This drastic step sounds like, feels like, [Democrats] don’t want input from Republican or Independents. It reflects, really, a power grab on the part of Democrat operatives who feel bipartisanship challenges their ability to rule with dictatorial power.”
Lawmakers will reconvene for a special session on April 28 at the Civic Center when the venue is available again. Senate President Troy Jackson announced that a poll among lawmakers to reconvene in late April was successful, with enough Republicans and Democrats supporting the measure. Had lawmakers not agreed to a special session, Governor Janet Mills said in a press release that she would call one on that date.
The governor also signaled her administration will propose a supplemental budget plan for the legislature to consider in the coming weeks. As we noted last week, moving to pass an initial majority budget enables the Democrats to spend more in a supplemental budget, or multiple spending bills, also by majority vote.