AUGUSTA (AP) – Short-term belt-tightening and long-term borrowing combine to occupy Maine lawmakers this week.

The Baldacci administration is anticipating prompt action on a $20 million supplemental budget plan designed to offset a recently diagnosed $17 million revenue shortfall through June and cover more than $5 million in unanticipated Corrections Department costs.

A mix of trims and transfers, the measure envisions $3 million in savings within the University of Maine System.

Ranking Democrats and Republicans have suggested that legislative enactment could be routine. The Appropriations Committee scheduled a public hearing Monday on a draft of the administration’s plan and was expected to begin the work session on it immediately afterward.

Spending adjustments are needed to ensure that the current state finance plan is balanced when the fiscal year ends on June 30.

The Baldacci administration and House and Senate leaders are hoping to see a supplemental budget enacted this week.

Lawmakers have a partial break next week with no floor sessions scheduled.

Over the weekend, negotiators continued to explore mutually acceptable parameters for a multi-million-dollar bond package.

Gov. John Baldacci originally proposed a four-part borrowing plan worth $175 million and asked that two of the pieces be put before state voters on an accelerated schedule in June.

With a total of about $500 million in borrowing initiatives pending before the Appropriations Committee, Baldacci’s Democratic legislative allies and leaders of the Legislature’s Republican minorities essentially bracketed the governor’s package.

Republicans were negotiating from a lower figure of $140 million, while a Democratic list came out at about $191 million.

Administration officials say the full Legislature, which would have to approve any bond proposal by majorities of two-thirds, would need to move swiftly to get anything out in time for a June referendum.

Baldacci and top aide Jane Lincoln convened a State House Cabinet Room meeting Sunday afternoon with House and Senate leaders and some Appropriations panelists.

Under a Republican proposal, the entirety of any bond package that the parties agree to would be put before the voters on one referendum rather than be split between June and November.

Late last week, ranking Democratic lawmakers circulated a borrowing proposal that would seek to raise:

•$63.5 million for a variety of purposes characterized as economic development.

•$24 million for education projects and cultural affairs.

•$52 million for transportation projects.

•$16.8 million for environmental projects.

•$15 million for capital improvements at state parks and historic sites, coastal and inland waterway access, riverfront cultural heritage centers and a revolving loan fund for land acquisition and conservation easements.

•$20 million for school renovations and capital repairs.

“I think they’re on a path to focus on economic development and to be able to discuss that, recognizing the importance of that to the overall economy,” Baldacci said as talks extended into the night.

AP-ES-04-13-03 1852EDT


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