Budget stalemate reminds State House veterans of 1991 shutdown

State budget possible shutdown

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Legislators in Augusta appear no closer to agreement on a new state budget.

There was a meeting of leaders and the Governor on Friday morning, but that has apparently not broken the logjam, which is still centered on three issues: increasing education funding, changing education policies about money for teachers and classrooms, and repealing the 3% income tax surcharge passed by voters.

As the talks go on and the June 30 budget deadline draws closer, some legislators say they’re starting to worry about the risk of a partial state government shutdown.

Veterans of the 1991 shutdown say they’re warning people to take that risk very seriously.

“I’m worried,” said Pam Cahill, who was a GOP senator and a member of Senate leadership in 1991.

That shutdown lasted more than two weeks, prompted angry protests and left a deep impression on those who lived and worked  through it. They say current legislators need to understand how serious a shutdown would be for the state and the problems it would cause, and work hard to fund a compromise on the new budget.

“I’m telling them that they need to know what they’re getting into. They shouldn’t glamorize it at all,” said Cahill, who remembers threatening phone calls, confrontations with angry protestors and Republican Senators not leaving the State House for three days during that crisis.

Democratic Sen. Bill Diamond was Secretary of State in 1991, and warns that another shutdown would also take a toll on Maine people and businesses.

“I expect some folks say we don’t need and don’t like government,” said Diamond. “Well, until you need a permit to expand your truck weight, or need something for business to operate or get their checks or need all these things ‘til they need something from motor vehicles... There’s a lot of money, a lot of things at risk. We need to go out and get this done.”

Diamond and Cahill both said Democrats and Republicans need to compromise to find a budget solution and get a new budget passed before the June 30 deadline arrives.

As of Friday night, no new budget meetings were scheduled, although members of  the Appropriations Committee were expected to be working privately over the weekend.
 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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