AUGUSTA – With the possibility of a state government shutdown looming, legislators are racing against the clock as they try to agree on a state budget.
Legislative leaders spent hours negotiating during the past three days, but they still haven’t reached agreement on how to fund the government for the next two years.
If lawmakers fail to approve a state budget by midnight Friday, state government shuts down, until funding gets approved.
Leaders from both parties agree if an agreement can be reached on how much money should be spent on education funding, other issues will fall into place.
“A major obstacle is what the spend is and how much money goes to K-12 education.” said Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport.
Democrats say they are willing to overturn the voter approved three percent surcharge on maine’s wealthier families, if it helps to avoid a state shutdown.
Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said “I think people have already gotten huge concessions. Let’s just quit playing politics and get this thing done.”
Senator Jackson and Speaker of the House Sara Gideon met with Governor Paul LePage Monday morning. The governor’s press secretary declined to comment on that meeting.
In order to pass, the budget needs two-thirds of the legislators to vote in favor of it. In a move that appears to underscore her frustration with the process, Speaker Gideon said a budget, in some form, will be presented to the legislature this week. She stated “And we will be continuing to meet probably every 20 to 30 minutes until we can hammer out an agreement.”
Even if legislators pass a budget, it still needs the governor’s signature or a veto, with enough time to allow for a veto override vote before midnight Friday.
If state government does shut down, it will be the first time since 1991 that it has happened in Maine.