AUGUSTA (AP) – Democratic and Republican leaders of the Maine House of Representatives met Wednesday to discuss possible areas of agreement when the Legislature reconvenes next week.

The exploratory talks were inconclusive, according to participants from both sides, but further consultations are expected.

“No news to report,” House Minority Leader Joe Bruno, R-Raymond, told The Associated Press as he returned to the GOP House offices with his deputy, Republican Rep. David Bowles of Sanford, after the leadership meeting in House Speaker Patrick Colwell’s office broke up around lunchtime.

“Talk is open,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Robert Duplessie, D-Westbrook, arriving back at the Democratic House offices behind Majority Leader John Richardson, D-Brunswick.

Concluding marathon floor sessions, House and Senate leaders said Friday night that lawmakers would be sent home until next Tuesday.

Democrats may be able to advance budget-balancing legislation themselves but, even there, concession somewhere is needed. Baldacci said Wednesday the administration was examining the status of an Appropriations Committee package that revised elements of his original plan.

The Appropriations panel is scheduled to meet Monday. Plans for the Taxation Committee, meanwhile, are unclear.

Gov. John Baldacci conferred with Colwell, D-Gardiner, on Tuesday and more legislative soundings were on tap later in the day Wednesday.

For his part, Baldacci said, “our door is open.”

House Democrats have discussed raising so-called sin taxes, such as levies on tobacco and liquor, as a way to fund property tax relief while Senate Democrats have floated a 1-cent hike in the sales tax, which Baldacci opposes.

New bonding authorization would demand some level of bipartisan cooperation.

In mid-February, Baldacci outlining a $120 million state borrowing package that would include $60 million to be used gradually for Land for Maine’s Future Program funding.

Two-thirds House and Senate majorities are needed to get bond proposals to the voters, effectively giving the Republican House and Senate minorities a determining say.

AP-ES-04-21-04 1509EDT


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