AUGUSTA (AP) – Preliminary discussions on how best to proceed in this month’s special legislative session have continued intermittently this week with the pace expected to pick up next Thursday.

On that day two legislative committees – the Appropriations Committee that would consider state borrowing proposals and the Taxation Committee that would weigh tax system changes – are scheduled to meet at the State House.

The meetings would be exactly one week in advance of the reconvening of the full House and Senate.

When this year’s regular legislative session adjourned in June, Democrats and Republicans were at odds over how much new borrowing the state might put before voters in November.

Also left behind was the question of whether and, if so, how to counter a citizen initiative slated for referendum in November that would mandate a major increase in state aid to local school systems.

Gov. John Baldacci and lawmakers from both parties maintain that the referendum proposal backed by the Maine Municipal Association carries no guarantee that more state aid would result in curbs on local property taxes – the goal that originally gave impetus to the initiative drive. But building support behind a legislative alternative has proved elusive for the governor and various groups of lawmakers. Backers of the referendum proposal have argued that it should stand alone as a single question for voters.

Not much time is left before the Legislature is to return to the capital and the stated aim of political leaders is to have some sort of deal in place – or at least in sight – before the special session opens.

Baldacci met with legislative leaders on Monday, the same day that ranking Democrats and Republicans on the Appropriations Committee conferred.

More talks among Appropriations panelists were to be held by telephone Thursday and discussions at the staff level have been ongoing.

Also in advance of the Aug. 21 special session, the Legislature’s Business, Research and Economic Development Committee meets Wednesday to take testimony and consider Baldacci’s nomination of senior gubernatorial aide John Cashman of Old Town for the post of commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

AP-ES-08-07-03 1500EDT

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