AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — As expected, Maine's government shut down at midnight Saturday morning.
The last time Maine's government closed its doors was the summer of 1991, under Governor John McKernan's administration.
Governor LePage presented a surprise, last-minute proposal to the four leaders of the Legislature at the Blaine House Friday night, but House Speaker Sara Gideon said the proposal was not in document form.
The Governor signed the emergency proclamation to begin a state government shutdown at midnight.
House GOP leader Ken Fredette said if the parties keep working, they can find a solution in the next two days.
The legislature had voted to approve the state budget, but did not reach the required 2/3 votes to override any potential LePage veto.
A frustrated Speaker Gideon spoke to the House saying, 'A Governor's bill, I'm guessing, will still be coming. I think we could expect it to arrive in front of us, no earlier than Monday.'
Speaker Gideon did not sound optimistic that the proposal would pass. 'I can tell you, in its current form and its current list of demands, it will not get the Democratic votes.'
According to the Portland Press Herald, Gideon claims Governor LePage 'threw a temper tantrum,' exited the meeting by saying, 'shut her down.'
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Maine lawmakers were working down to the wire to pass a state budget before the midnight Friday deadline to avert the partial government shutdown.
Legislative leaders had been meeting behind closed doors to hammer out a deal. Months of hearings had failed to result in a unified agreement. Much of the discord involved funding for education.
The $7.1 billion, two-year spending plan would provide $162 million in new funding for education, and eliminate the 3 percent surtax on higher incomes that was passed by voters last year. Those issues have been the core of months of debate over the new budget, and represent stark differences between Democrats and Republicans.
It includes education reforms, which have been important to Republicans, and also provides pay raises for direct care workers who assist adults with intellectual disabilities and typically work for agencies paid through the state’s MaineCare program.
"I think we should do better," said Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, criticizing how the budget process was dragged out and done outside of committee.
House Republicans have insisted the total budget not exceed $7.05 billion, that it limits increases in education spending to $126 million and include education reforms. Democrats, on the other hand, have pushed for far more spending for education, to replace the estimated $320 million projected to be raised by the 3 percent tax on higher income residents.
According to the Portland Press Herald (http://bit.ly/2tbreI6) one major sticking point is that Governor LePage said he would veto any plan that increased the state's lodging tax without a corresponding income tax decrease.
Governor LePage has also said he would wait the allowed 10 days before deciding how to proceed with the budget.
NEWS CENTER will update this story.
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