AUGUSTA — Maine lawmakers and lobbyists were bracing Friday morning as they awaited Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s next two-year budget proposal.
LePage is also expected to make recommendations for a supplemental budget that will be aimed at balancing the state’s current budget, which is approximately $35 million in the red. The state’s constitution requires lawmakers balance the budget.
LePage, a staunch fiscal conservative, has pushed for both tax and spending cuts in his previous budget proposals, achieving some of both with a previously Republican majority Legislature.
But with the Legislature again securely in the hands of Democrats – many who have argued LePage’s tax cuts have compounded the state’s budget woes – the governor will likely face daunting opposition.
Early Friday LePage’s office said the budget proposal would be released and discussed with the media at about 3 p.m.
“We need to examine our spending practices, evaluate our delivery of services and gain control of our welfare system,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “Maine’s fiscal security and future is at stake, and we must make hard choices.”
Prior to the media briefing, Legislature leadership and members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will be provided details on both budgets by administration officials.
Democratic leaders said they would carefully examine the governor’s proposal but have said repeatedly they want to hear from Maine’s people as well.
Thursday Maine Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, told the Sun Journal editorial board during a meeting in Lewiston that Democrats intended to have a balanced budget but their approach wouldn’t be guided simply by party ideology.
He said they intended to take a broad look at the state’s budget situation and not bow to LePage’s sometimes fiery rhetoric on taxes and spending.
They also didn’t intend to let LePage dominate the conversation, Alfond said.
“Are we going to have a balanced budget?” Alfond asked. “Of course we are, we are required to by the constitution but we don’t need to be playing “whack-a-mole” the entire two years either.”