LePage's budget fix illegal, attorney general says

AUGUSTA (AP) — Gov. Paul LePage called on lawmakers Thursday to sign off on a 60-day spending fix to buy time to negotiate a new budget that doesn't raise taxes, but state Attorney General Janet Mills called into question the legality of a temporary budget.

Mills said in a letter to lawmakers that Maine's constitution requires a balanced budget and that continuing the current budget would result in an unbalanced spending plan.

She said Maine law requires a two-year budget and even if it didn't, passing a temporary emergency budget would "throw the state into financial uncertainty and would face significant opposition from bondholders, school, hospitals" and others. She predicted a temporary budget would spark lawsuits.

Lawmakers finished nearly all of their work for the session early Thursday morning, passing a slew of bills and sending them to the governor's desk. They already were prepared to reconvene next week to respond to LePage's anticipated veto to their budget bill before the governor called Thursday for a temporary fix.

LePage's administration said state law allows a short-term emergency measure, if passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.

"The Maine Constitution requires the State to not spend more than the amount of revenue it takes in — a short-term budget is constitutional," LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said in an email. "A short-term budget would authorize spending only for the expenses necessary to operate State government for a limited period of time, avoiding a shutdown."

At a rally earlier at the State House Hall of Flags, LePage announced to cheers that he would veto the two-year budget passed by the Legislature and called upon lawmakers to pass a 60-day continuing resolution to buy time to negotiate a new budget.

"The budget raises taxes on hardworking Maine families. I am here to tell you I will veto this budget," he said during an Americans For Prosperity rally dubbed "Don't Overtax ME." Behind him, the group held signs that said "Veto the budget!" and "Less taxes, less government, more freedom."

Democrats said the attorney general's letter shows that the governor's proposal was merely a stunt aimed at trying to convince fellow Republicans to sustain his veto.

"It is clear that the governor's 'continuing resolution' is nothing more than a Washington-style political gimmick," said Senate Democratic Leader Seth Goodall of Sagahock.

Democrats said they don't need a temporary budget because they are confident they can override LePage's veto next week, before the July 1 start of the next fiscal year. The budget passed in both chambers with the two-thirds majority that is necessary to override a veto.

The bipartisan budget lawmakers sent to LePage's desk last week 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 roughly an additional $170 million over two years.

Democrats said the increases were designed to avert steep property tax hikes that would result from a two-year suspension of revenue-sharing to Maine municipalities, which LePage had proposed in his original budget.

LePage said a short-term fix would ensure that state employees don't lose their jobs while avoiding an "unnecessary tax increase." He asked Maine residents to call their lawmakers and encourage them to support his proposal.

"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."

Assistant Democratic Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash said the 60-day fix is "something that we don't need to talk about right now."

"I think the Republicans definitely understand what's at stake here," he said.

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Comments

 's picture

Illegal???

What do you mean illegal? He's the GOVERNOR. He can do anything he wants. Anything he does is legal. He's the GOVERNOR!!!!

 's picture

Illegal???

What do you mean illegal? He's the GOVERNOR. He can do anything he wants. Anything he does is legal. He's the GOVERNOR!!!!

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Where are these cheering crowds coming from??????????

When ever I hear stories about LePage speaking to cheering crowds, all I can think of is how does he attract that many clueless people into one spot.
I can just see it now, He's up there, proclaiming his powers to veto the two year budget that no one but he has any problem with, instead he offers up an illegal plan of his own. Coming dangerously close to causing a State shutdown, these people are cheering him on. Oh, I can see the little children waving their little flags. Grandmothers holding little babies, and there he is, doing his best to destroy their livelihood, and they cheer his every move. I almost seem to think that after the speech, after all the press people have left, all the cheering fans exit and board buses back to Wisconsin. I don't have any better idea of where he's getting them from..........

Bob White's picture

Not everyone in Maine not yet anyway

Frank As much as you and your left hand gang want to think and try not all of us depend on the state and government to live. Maybe you should open your eyes and see that it take two to dance. Apparently their must have been others that saw something in the budget or it would have been over ridden.

 's picture

AFP

The Koch funded Americans for Prosperity, that's where.

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