AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- After a lengthy debate, lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill that would restore $40 million to the state's revenue sharing fund.
The vote came after nearly three hours of debate and several efforts by republicans to delay a vote that in the end passed by a wide enough margin to override a veto.
Democrats say the bill will help local municipalities provide critical services without significant hikes in property taxes. Republicans take issue with the way it would be funded, through new revenue the state is projected to receive. About $21 million dollars would come from Maine's rainy-day fund and $4 million dollars would come from a fund that saves for future income tax decreases. Republican leaders say this is 2014 money being used to pay 2015 bills.
"We have not met our obligation to pay our 2014 bills, it's about fifty million dollars, and that really should be the priority is paying our 2014 bills first" House Republican Leader Rep. Ken Fredette told NEWS CENTER.
Democrats argue that cities and towns are drafting their 2015 budgets now, and they need that money.
"If the revenue sharing gets cut, Biddeford loses one million dollars," Democratic Representative and Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant said. "That's 43 cents to the tax rate. I can't afford to put that in the budget. So what does that mean? It means services get cut."
The next vote on the bill is expected on Tuesday.