AUGUSTA (AP) – For all the belt-tightening trumpeted all session long by budget bargainers, late session scheming at the State House still revolved around dollar signs Wednesday with future borrowing one focus, taxes another and additional gambling revenue a third.

In fact, fiscal issues were being deliberated and debated all day and deep into the night in groups large and small, in venues public and private.

In the full Legislature, lawmakers enacted a fourth unanimous budget measure crafted by the Appropriations Committee.

Designed to offset a $48 million revenue gap in the two-year cycle that begins July 1, the budget measure drew strong support in both the Senate – 30-0 – and House of Representatives – 122-24 – after moves to reopen the package were beaten back.

“It does not raise taxes or fees,” said Democratic Rep. Joseph Brannigan of Portland, the House chairman of the Appropriations panel, citing popular selling points.

Joining in Brannigan’s emphasis on the bipartisan support enjoyed by the measure, Republican Rep. Richard Rosen of Bucksport seconded the call for passage.

As majority Democrats and minority Republicans forged a consensus, he said approvingly, “compromises were made.”

In the Senate, Democrat Mary Cathcart of Orono, the co-chairwoman of the Appropriations panel, also appealed to rank-and-file members to honor the committee’s accord.

“I hope we will not break an agreement that we spent so many hours working toward,” she said in successfully opposing any changes.

Intermittently through the day, legislative leaders moved in and out of Gov. John Baldacci’s office, conferring on the potential scope of new borrowing that might be put before state voters in November.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s referendum approval of a $60 million bond issue, at least some Republican negotiators were seeking to hold down the size of any second borrowing package.

“We’re still at $80 (million),” said House Minority Leader Joe Bruno, R-Raymond. “We’re not moving.”

Taxation Committee members, meanwhile, stepped up their hunt for a breakthrough that could end a protracted stalemate over tax reform.

One central issue under discussion was a local option sales tax and there, too, lawmakers held numerous conferences with the Baldacci administration.

While those negotiations went on, lawmakers enacted a bill to allow video gaming in off-track betting places despite Baldacci’s anticipated opposition.

The final House vote on the measure was 112-29, and the Senate went along by a vote of 24-6.

The enactment of the budget bill cleared the way for the Appropriations panel to resume one of its final chores – deciding on its recommendations for handling individual pieces of legislation that did not make it into previous spending packages.


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