AUGUSTA — Maine Gov. Paul LePage announced to cheers Thursday that he's going to veto the two-year budget that contains temporary tax increase and asked for a continuing resolution to buy time to negotiate a budget without tax increases.
During an Americans For Prosperity rally dubbed "Don't Overtax ME" in the State House Hall of Flags, LePage called on residents to tell their lawmakers to reject the current proposal and agree to a short-term budget solution to avoid a government shutdown, as sign-holding activists cheered behind him.
"The budget raises taxes on hardworking Maine families. I am here to tell you I will veto this budget," he said. Behind him, the group held signs that said, "Veto the budget!" and "Less taxes, less government, more freedom."
But Democrats say a continuing resolution won't be necessary because they are confident they will have enough votes to override the governor's veto next week, before the July 1 deadline.
The bipartisan budget adopted by the Legislature would temporarily increase Maine's 5 percent sales tax by a half-cent and temporarily raise the meals and lodging tax from 7 to 8 percent, generating an additional roughly $170 million over two years.
Democrats said that the increases were designed to avert steep property tax increases that would result from a two-year suspension of revenue-sharing to Maine municipalities, which LePage had proposed in his original budget.
LePage proposed Thursday to Senate President Justin Alfond and House Speaker Mark Eves that the Legislature adopt a 60-day continuing budget resolution that would keep government running while a solution is negotiated. LePage said the short-term resolution would ensure that state employees don't lose their jobs while avoiding an "unnecessary tax increase."
"Democrats have been saying for months and putting fear into people that there is a pending shutdown of government," he said. "That's how they get weak Republicans to cave."
The Republican has been threatening to veto the budget since it landed on his desk late last week, saying a potential state government shutdown in the short term would be better than adopting a budget that includes tax increases.
Lawmakers finished nearly all of their work for the session early Thursday morning, passing a slew of bills now headed to the governor's desk. They already were prepared to reconvene next week to vote to attempt to override LePage's potential veto.
Assistant Democratic Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash said the 60-day resolution is "something that we don't need to talk about right now." He predicted enough Republicans will join with the Democrats to get the two-thirds votes necessary to override the veto.
"I think the Republicans definitely understand what's at stake here," he said.