AUGUSTA (AP) – The Baldacci administration began to make its pitch for a $175 million borrowing package to legislative budget writers Monday while also trying to build support for a new $20 million short-term budget-balancing plan.

Four Baldacci bond proposals drew dozens of potential beneficiaries to testify before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

The governor has said he hopes to put two of the proposals on a June ballot.

One would raise $70 million for a variety of economic development initiatives. The other – a $13.3 million borrowing – would go to the University of Maine System, the fledgling community college system, state parks, the courts and local arts and cultural projects.

Two other Baldacci borrowing proposals would be left for statewide voting in November under the governor’s plan.

Those are a proposed $75 million bond for highway and bridge improvements and other transportation projects and a proposed $16.8 million bond for water pollution control facilities and other environmental measures.

Additional borrowing proposals from other sponsors total in aggregate more than $322 million.

Baldacci, seeking support for his package, will appeal directly to rank-and-file lawmakers. As part of that effort, he planned to meet with House Republicans Tuesday morning.

Majorities of two-thirds in both the House and Senate would be required to send any bond proposal to voters.

On the budget front, the governor followed up a similar meeting with ranking Democrats on Friday by meeting Monday with Republican leaders of the House and Senate minorities.

House Minority Leader Joe Bruno, R-Raymond, said afterward the latest plan for bringing spending and revenue for the current fiscal year into balance appeared unlikely to provoke controversy.

“It looks pretty harmless,” Bruno said, describing the basics as “surplus and salary savings, that kind of thing.”

Bruno’s reaction echoed that of Senate President Beverly Daggett, D-Augusta, late last week.

The supplemental budget plan being proposed by Baldacci – a complex web of transfers and other financial adjustments – is designed to offset a recently diagnosed $17 million revenue shortfall through June 30 and also to cover more than $5 million in unanticipated costs within the state Department of Corrections.

New savings items range from $3 million within the University of Maine System to $24,310 in salary savings at the Blaine House.

Finance Commissioner Rebecca Wyke said some savings derive from an extended curb on hiring.

“I think it’s important that we deal with this issue … and that we continue to work together with the bipartisan leadership,” Baldacci told reporters.

The Appropriations Committee wrapped up its public hearings on bond proposals Monday evening and was expected to make its recommendations to the full Legislature before the end of the week.

That pace could allow budget negotiators to turn their attention to the supplemental budget next week.

AP-ES-04-07-03 1917EDT



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