AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage followed through on his vow to veto a compromise budget sent to to him June 13 by the Legislature. The Republican governor issued his veto letter Monday afternoon.
In his veto message, LePage said the budget harms students and elderly Mainers. He also repeated his complaint that the state’s “welfare” spending cuts too deeply into other budget areas.
“This veto is not one done lightly,” he said. “When I submitted a balanced budget, I knew there would be areas of concern for many legislators. That is why we had nearly six months to work together and find a solution that would have made hard decisions while still protecting our most vulnerable. It was an opportunity for our state to do something great, to make real changes for the better. Unfortunately, it was an opportunity missed.”
The veto sets the stage for crucial override votes Wednesday in the Maine House and Senate, both of which passed the budget with at least two-thirds majorities before sending it to LePage. If either chamber fails to reach the two-thirds vote threshold, the veto will be sustained, leaving the state without a budget for the two-year fiscal cycle that begins July 1.
Without a budget, all but essential services of state government would shut down, repeating a 1991 scenario that Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature have said they want to avoid.
LePage — who objects to temporary sales, meals and lodging taxes included in the budget — last week told Dirigo Girls State delegates that a “two-week shutdown would be preferable to two years with this budget.”
On Thursday, the governor proposed a temporary 60-day budget in the form of the continuing resolutions used by Congress to pay for ongoing government functions while he and legislators negotiate a new budget deal. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, said such a plan would violate the Maine Constitution, and Democratic legislative leaders — who believe they have enough votes to override the budget veto — showed no interest in the plan.
The Legislature’s 13-member Appropriations Committee, after lengthy overnight negotiations, unanimously endorsed the compromise budget early the morning of June 8. The budget compromise temporarily raises the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.5 percent and meals and lodging taxes from 7 percent to 8 percent through June 30, 2015. It restores about 65 percent of the $200 million in municipal revenue sharing that LePage proposed suspending as part of the two-year budget plan he introduced in January.
The Legislature’s budget also makes major changes to LePage’s original education and human services funding proposals.
The House voted 102-43 to enact the budget. The Senate voted 25-10.
As of Friday, LePage had vetoed more than 30 pieces of legislation this session. The Legislature has sustained every one of them for which an override vote has been taken, although more than a dozen will be subject to legislative votes Wednesday.