Democrats and Republicans are narrowing the gap.

AUGUSTA (AP) – Democrats and Republicans were only $5.6 million apart on a bond package to be voted on during Thursday’s special session, but the hours ticked away with no vote as a compromise eluded lawmakers.

No votes had been taken in either the House or Senate by 8:45 p.m. as lawmakers’ attention appeared to be focused on a tax relief measure advanced by Gov. John Baldacci.

While there were some informal discussions aimed at relieving the deadlock on bonds, public talk was hard-line among leaders.

“I’d like you to hang tough on the bonds,” House Majority Leader John Richardson told a Democratic caucus before the session opened. “We want to get as much as we can.”

Democrats were supporting a $93.8 million borrowing package but Republicans wanted to hold the line at $88.2 million.

The two sides were also at odds on the sizes of some components of the package. Republicans wanted to borrow more for transportation, but Democrats wanted more than the Republicans earmarked for environmental and educational projects.

Richardson, D-Brunswick, acknowledged that contractors might get fewer jobs under the Democrats’ plan, but said his party’s proposal can make up for it my creating additional jobs in educational and environmental areas.

Democrats also said their package can leverage $18 million more in federal matching money than the GOP plan, countering claims to the contrary made a day earlier by Republicans.

GOP lawmakers took exception to the all-or-nothing format of the bond bill, which was written in a way that it must pass or fail as a whole. Republicans instead wanted an opportunity to vote on each of the components.

A bipartisan agreement on the bonds was needed because they must pass by a two-thirds majority in order to be sent to voters on Nov. 4.

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