AUGUSTA – Gov. John Baldacci’s controversial Sunday hunting proposal got one more nail in its coffin Sunday after the legislative Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to yank it out of the state budget.

That means if lawmakers are to consider allowing Sunday hunting, it would be debated on its own and not as part of the state budget. Any proposal – especially a controversial one – has a greater chance of passing when it’s in the budget.

Earlier this year, Baldacci proposed Sunday hunting in exchange for hunters continuing to pay an additional $3 in fees, which are scheduled to disappear July 1. Sunday hunting suffered a setback during the public hearing when landowners blasted the idea and also threatened to post their land if it passed.

George Smith of Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine said he is working to drum up support for small-game Sunday hunting only in the unorganized territories in northern and western Maine. SAM would be willing to live with the higher fees if that were allowed, Smith said.

If the higher fees do ultimately disappear, it would leave a $5.2 million hole in the state budget. There is also no agreement on a $250 million proposal to sell lottery proceeds, nor is their agreement on $90 million to $100 million in social service cuts Baldacci proposed but that lawmakers don’t like.

The Appropriations Committee is working to complete its budget recommendations next week so that the House and Senate can vote on the budget by April 1, which would mean the budget could pass with a simple majority and not a two-thirds vote.

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