As expected, Gov. Janet Mills on Friday signed the $9.9 billion biennial budget Democratic lawmakers approved late Thursday night, saying in a statement that she wants a “reset” in relations between Republicans and Democrats.
The partisan budget was passed without Republican votes despite months of bipartisan negotiations, making Mills responsible for more partisan biennial budgets than any Maine governor in the past four decades.
Republicans proposed a modest reduction in state income tax rates that would have been paid for with $200 million from an expected increase in forecasted revenue.
The tax reduction would not have required any spending cuts from the rest of the package and would only have applied to the first $23,000 of a Maine worker’s income.
But Mills and Democratic lawmakers closed the door to any tax reductions whatsoever last week, signaling that they would go it alone on the budget.
In a radio interview days before the budget vote, Jackson said Republicans wanted to cut taxes for the rich, something Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart called a “flat out lie.“
The Republican proposal did not contain a tax cut for millionaires, as Jackson claimed in the interview, and Jackson has refused to answer questions from the Maine Wire about why he made the erroneous claim.
Mills seems to be misreading the mood of Republican lawmakers.
In an email statement announcing that she’d signed the budget, she asked for a “reset” of relations.
“I urge Democrats and Republicans to reset and to begin anew the work of negotiating their priorities during the next round of budget discussions,” she said.
The rhetoric may be deja vu for Maine political observers, especially conservatives.
In 2021, Mills orchestrated a similar partisan budget.
But by 2022, Mills was publicly claiming she had not signed a partisan budget.
In the 2022 gubernatorial debates with former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Mills claimed multiple times that she’d signed a bipartisan budget.
“We enacted a fully bipartisan budget,” Mills said.
“Maine has done a good job working across the aisle to enact a budget,” she said.
In truth, the 2021 budget used precisely the same tactics to advance without any Republican support whatsoever.
Because the budget was a majority budget, rather than the traditional supermajority budget, it will only take effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns, which is traditionally much later in the year.
However, Mills exploited a provision in Maine’s Constitution which allows the legislature to adjourn “sine die” and then be called back into session by the governor for an “extraordinary” occasion.
The result of the partisan maneuver is that Mills and legislative Democrats could cut Republicans out of the budget writing process without risking any lapse in funding for state government.
“I look forward to continuing to engage with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to find common ground,” Mills said.
When the legislature reconvenes next week, lawmakers will begin consideration of other bills, including supplemental appropriations that are expected to spend another $500 million.