Democratic leaders urge LePage to quickly veto budget bill

AUGUSTA — Democratic leaders in the Maine Legislature on Wednesday urged Republican Gov. Paul LePage to veto the budget bill so they can act quickly to override the veto and keep state government open.

LePage told a television reporter Wednesday that a state government shutdown was better than a bad budget.

"I think a shutdown is less painful and less damaging than signing a bad budget," LePage said in an interview with WCSH. He called the budget proposal "horrific." 

LePage has been signaling for the past several days that he would veto the budget, including saying in his radio address on Saturday that if the budget raises taxes, he will veto it.

The budget bill headed for his desk does increase the state's sales tax from 5 percent to 5.5 percent and the state's meals and lodging tax from 7 to 8 percent. Both increases would sunset in 2016, but LePage has said for months he wouldn't support any tax increase. On Wednesday, the message on the television LePage has placed in an interior window of his State House office repeated the message, "No New Taxes."

Lawmakers on the Legislature's Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee unanimously approved a $6.3 billion state spending package Tuesday that eliminates about 60 percent of the $400 million in cuts to cities and towns that LePage had proposed in his budget package.

During a brief meeting with the State House press corps Wednesday, House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, were confident they had the votes to override a LePage veto.

Eves essentially asked LePage to go ahead and veto the budget as soon as he gets it. The final draft of the document was still in the process of being printed by the Legislature's Revisor's Office on Wednesday, but Eves and Alfond said they expected the Legislature to have the measured passed by week's end.

"I think we've seen a pattern of behavior from the governor that when he doesn't get what he wants, he uses threats, intimidation, ultimatums to try and persuade votes," Eves said. "What we have is a responsible budget, a bipartisan budget that prevents a massive property-tax hike. What we have is a unanimous vote out of Appropriations to balance the budget in a responsible way."

Lawmakers from both parties on the committee hailed the package as a compromise, saying neither side was getting all it wanted, and while they were happy with the bipartisan work achieved, neither side was happy with all of the results.

Among other things, the LePage proposal suspends state revenue-sharing with towns to provide a balanced budget that doesn't increase state taxes.

Towns and cities have reacted, saying under LePage's proposal they would either have to drastically reduce services or raise local property taxes to make up the loss.

Democrats have said LePage simply pushed the state's financial shortfall onto the backs of local property taxpayers, but the governor's office has been adamant that the elected leaders of cities and towns in Maine can decide whether to raise property taxes.

Alfond said the prospect of LePage's threat to shut down state government just as Maine goes into its busy tourism season was untenable. He said a shutdown would leave more than 10,000 state employees with no pay and no way to pay their bills.

"To me, it just showcases how out of touch this governor is with working men and women in the state of Maine," Alfond said. "It also showcases to me how out of touch this governor is with how important tourism is to our state."

Alfond said millions of people visit Maine in the summer months, "and what message does it send when the chief executive of the state of Maine says, 'I want to shut down the state,' rather than supporting a compromise bipartisan message?"

To override a veto, Democrats need at least eight Republicans to join forces with them in the House and three in the Senate. Four Republicans in the House serve on the Appropriations Committee and already have voted in favor of the budget when it passed from the committee Tuesday.

Republican leaders were noncommittal Wednesday on the level of support for the budget or the appetite for overriding a LePage veto.

According to the Maine Constitution, LePage has 10 days to veto the budget, sign it or allow it to become law without his signature.

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said lawmakers had to respect the governor's rights as chief executive under the constitution.

"We have to react as the Legislature to whatever decision of his that he makes," Fredette said.

He couldn't say where the caucus was as a whole on the budget or a potential veto override vote. He also wouldn't comment on whether he supported the measure.

"We are just in the process now of trying to count heads," Fredette said. "We are certainly getting late in the process."

He noted that Republicans were asking that some other important bills, including one that pays off $183 million in state debt to hospitals, be acted on.

The bill would use revenue from a renegotiated contract for the state's wholesale liquor business to finance revenue bonds to pay the hospitals MaineCare reimbursements.

"It seems odd to me they are demanding that the governor simply veto the bill, if it gets passed, so we can act upon it when they've held the liquor contract bill for five months," Fredette said.

Alfond said lawmakers had a responsibility to pass the budget. He believed they would put politics aside to do so.

"I feel confident that we are going to have the votes needed," Alfond said. "We will see, but I trust that Republicans and Democrats — just like they did in Appropriations — will come together and pass this more responsible budget."

LePage met with Democratic leaders Wednesday. The meeting was "cordial," said Adrienne Bennett, the governor's spokeswoman.

Bangor Daily News Staff Writer Christopher Cousins contributed to this report.

sthistle@sunjournal.com 

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Comments

Our lovely governor wants to

Our lovely governor wants to veto the budget because of small tax increases on sales taxes, dining out and lodging. In my opinion, if one can afford to dine out and stay at hotels then they should be able to afford a half of a percent or one percent tax increase on these items. But the governor wants his way or no way so he is willing to put 10,000 people out of work simply because he is being stubborn. He says he does not want to raise any taxes however, his budget proposal would require most cities and towns in Maine to raise their property taxes. Way to pass the buck Mr. Lepage.

Bob White's picture

When did it become bad

When did become bad to say no more taxes? Wow in this economy when people are struggling to keep their houses and put food on the table some people think its a bad idea to hold the line on taxes. Come on people I'm sure we can find plenty of fat in the government that we can cut away so we don't have to raise taxes maybe even lower them. Would any of you left thinking people care to answers Mr. Stones comment.

It is bad to say no more

It is bad to say no more taxes when it turns into "no taxes." You can only cut so much fat before you start cutting meat. And when a State or town or school district is forced to cut and cut and cut, year after year, they run out of things to cut, inflation has actually made everything more expensive, and still the voters are saying "aaugh! no more taxes!" This is where we are now (or getting close to it). Instead of speculating that they may be plenty of fat out there, why not tell us exactly what fat there is? Good luck.

When it gets down to it, by insisting on a budget that raises no taxes and eliminates revenue sharing, the Governor is doing exactly that by forcing towns to raise their property taxes by either assessing houses at their actual value or raising the mil rate. Sure, they have the "choice" to enact more cuts instead, but again, there's cutting fat and cutting meat. It's kinda like an employer who paid mileage to employees to cover the 200 miles per day that they drive saying "sorry, we decided that instead of raising our prices, we're not giving you a raise (again) and we're taking away the mileage reimbursement. Guess you'll just have to decide what you need to cut from your family budget. Good luck with that inflation thing."

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

The bull you gore

Nobody likes paying taxes. They say it is the price you pay for living in a civilized society. It's fine to say you" are sure there Is plenty of fat in the budget" until you identify where the fat is. When it is somebody else's health or life it doesn't appear to be fat to them. We know where the fat is. It's in the rich folks who have figured out how to dump the cost of civilization on the wage earner through their lobbying and they have the gall to tell us that they are saving us money when they cut their taxes and our services. As for the legislature not being speedy enough for Mr. Stone. Well they have had to play politics with Veto Lepage and his lackeys. There is no rush in passing legislation that Republicans vote for then change their minds when the tyrant vetoes it. For all that has gone on in Augusta this year we could have saved a bunch of your tax money if we had shut the whole thing down including and especially the governor's mansion. None of them deserve the lavish benefits they have received from us this year. I hope the voters are paying attention to the fact that our house is being trashed by people who are not listening.

Bob White's picture

Claire I was in Augusta today

Claire I was in Augusta today and their was a easy up (tent) that had on it saying "free cell phones" all you need to qualify is a EBT card. Come on really I think that is fat that could be cut. Now I'm sure you have some reason why these people deserve these phones for free or maybe some bad Republican voted for it and that's why its their. These people having these phones is foolish you don't need these to survive also what about people buying junk food with EBT they don't need this either. Could the wealthy pay more probably but I think for whatever tax increase you want on the rich then the people on the other end takes the same cut in services. Now my friend that is fair.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Cell phones

I don't actually know the details of this program. Is it welfare funded or funded by a fee on our cell phone plans? I'm also not sure I would agree that this is a luxury. I'm assuming this is a basic phone with a limited number of minutes if it is the one I heard about and not a smart phone with an internet plan. As I heard it the reason that came about is because there are no longer pay phones. There are times when people do need to make a call even when they are poor. I'm assuming the reason they asked for EBT cards was as a way to make sure the folks were low income and qualified for the program. It isn't that I object to cutting the budget. I do object to the cuts all coming from the same hide. And the country I grew up in did not ask old people, sick people, and kids to do the sacrificing first before everybody else.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Do you even know what the

Do you even know what the cell phones are for and what they provide? They give people a minimum number of minutes (usually 250) to use as a lifeline phone to make appointments, call 911, and keep in contact with family. They are in place of the lifeline land line. Many of our elderly use those phones because the phone company has gotten to be so unreliable. And gee 250 minutes is such a big amount. Do you know what many of our elderly get for foodstamps? Many get a lousy $10 a month. But this $10 allows them to get these phones. So do these elderly deserve the phones? I would say yes.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

The thing is that even the

The thing is that even the governor's budget proposal raised taxes. It just passed the buck to the local level and would increase property taxes. At least this tax increase has a light at the end of the tunnel...it expires at the end of the biennium budget. When did it become ok to pass the buck when the state has budget troubles to the local level.

Yup. Pass the taxing

Yup. Pass the taxing authority on to the municipalities. That give him "plausible deniability." "Hey! They didn't have to raise property taxes, they could have just cut the maintenance budget of put off repaving that crumbling road for a couple more years."

DONALD FERLAND's picture

My questions for whomever

My questions for whomever wants to answer...Do any of you ever watch the Maine Connection? Have any of you actually watched the public hearings, house or senate proceedings or the work sessions? If not, maybe you should. You would learn quite a bit more then just what is reported in the news. You could actually hear the words as they come out of the mouths of the people in Augusta. Have any of you ever gone to Augusta and spoken to the representatives and senators? Have any of you ever testified on any of these bills? Do any of you contact your representatives in any way and tell them what you think? Maybe you should.

The governor is the governor, he is a bully, he throws temper tantrums, he does what he wants regardless of what the Maine people want. Politics can be ugly but at some point you have to work with both parties and COMPROMISE, a word that does not seem to be in this governor's vocabulary.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Nothing gets done

So the governor having promised that "Nothing gets done " between now and the election now thinks it is less painful to shut down the government than to sign a bi-partisan budget. Well I have to ask "Less painful for whom? " When he has to run for re-election as Veto Lepage or No Government Lepage it may turn out to be more painful for him than he thinks. The people of Maine elected him ,sort of, to run our house not to burn it down and I don't think this will be help him with anybody other than his base. And most of all I think the Republicans who are following him off this cliff will find it painful indeed.

Bob Stone's picture

The Theater of the Absurd

The legislature was sworn in over six months ago. The Governor submitted his budget months ago. They have passed meaningless resolutions, haggled over hundreds of bills, ate scores of lobbyist prepared lunches, attended dozens of booze laden evening dinners, cost us several million in increased interest costs while playing politics with the hospital deal, waited months before starting budget hearings and now have the balls to complain about the Governor not moving fast enough on their last minute budget bill?

Take your time, Governor, take your sweet time.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

At least they aren't

At least they aren't purchasing a tv with taxpayer money to say it.

Jeff Johnson's picture

Meanwhile, back on the

Meanwhile, back on the democratic side of the aisle, they're writing bills about horsemeat.

Jim Cyr's picture

Right-On Gov.

NO NEW TAXES !! Mr. Alfond, smaller government is the answer to economic prosperity, not new taxes and a larger government !!!! The state must pay outstanding bills just as we at home must put on top of the pile. We at home have only so much money to work with, therefore, the state must do the same !!

AL PELLETIER's picture

Whoopie!

Perhaps if they override his veto he'll feel so useless he'll resign.

If he prevents the state from

If he prevents the state from a bad budget bill, I wouldn't call that useless, I'd call it doing his job.

AL PELLETIER's picture

He's been doing his job

Which includes being a disruptive bully who doesn't give a crap about joining in meaningful negotiations.

whats to negotiate? He said

whats to negotiate? He said he wasn't going to raise taxes, he just doing what he promised.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

He is also wasting taxpayer

He is also wasting taxpayer money on a tv to tell the legislature how to do their jobs. Yet all he does is put down everything in the state except the rich. Good way to bring in jobs to the state....NOT. Put down our teachers and students and tell them they fail....good way to get them to work harder....NOT. He never learned the lesson about saying something nice or not saying anything at all. Now while he may have run for governor with good intentions, the way in which he is going about it is off putting. There is a way to tactfully tell the truth without coming across as a bully who HAS to have his own way. Doing his job? I say NOT since he would rather shut down the state instead of working WITH both parties to come up with a way to move this state forward. Oh wait, if they over ride his veto is he going to go back to the Blaine House to pout?

If they overide his vetoe,

If they overide his vetoe, the people of Maine will be paying more in taxes, and the economy will suffer. Its not about what party is winning, its about how to move Maine forward.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Republicans AND Democrats

Republicans AND Democrats both agree that raising property taxes is the worst thing they could do for this state. The 0,5% increase on sales tax and the 1% lodging and meals tax is TEMPORARY....it ends at the end of the 2 year budget cycle. In fact during the debate, Representative Timberlake (R-Turner) wanted to raise the sales tax 1%. NO ONE wanted to raise taxes and this was the lesser of the evils. Would you rather see a state shutdown? Would you rather the state's credit rating goes down even more because it shuts down and doesn't pay its bills? I don't. And this governor has proven that he will NOT work with Democrats. He will NOT compromise.

Rep Timberlake is in the

Rep Timberlake is in the wrong party, if he wants to raise taxes.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Correction...it was not

Correction...it was not Timberlake but another representative that wanted to raise the sales tax 1%. Timberlake wanted a 1.5% cut across the board.....my mistake.

Jeff Johnson's picture

Temporary...

"The 0,5% increase on sales tax and the 1% lodging and meals tax is TEMPORARY"

Bullshit. Name the last tax that was labeled as temporary, and went away at the end of the term.

Best example: Turnpike tolls were to expire when the roadway was paid for.

Personal income tax: Temporary in 1913 to fund WWI... 100 years later. Not too temporary.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

It is written in to the

It is written in to the document that the taxes will expire on June 30, 2015. If future legislatures decide to keep that increase then we deal with it at that time and with that bill. Would you rather property taxes go up with NO end in sight?

Jeff Johnson's picture

Um... my property taxes have

Um... my property taxes have never gone down... Just sayin'.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

And they could very easily go

And they could very easily go higher than you have seen if the governor gets his way.

The Governor doesn't have the

The Governor doesn't have the authority to raise your property taxes.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

And if he gets his way and

And if he gets his way and cuts 100% of the revenue sharing for the cities and towns where do you think they will get the money to cover that...they will raise your property taxes. So even though the governor cannot "Personally" raise your property tax the cities and towns will have to so he will be responsible as a result of his actions but he will be able to "pass the buck" to the local governments and claim to be "clean as a whistle"

PAUL MATTSON's picture

I recognized a lobbyist from

I recognized a lobbyist from NH at the State House promoting the initiative too.

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