AUGUSTA (AP) – Legislative budget writers all but wrapped up an extended effort Thursday to come up with $10.1 million in savings to complete a $6.3 billion two-year state spending plan, but fell short of unanimity.

With two Democrats absent and two Republicans opposed, the Appropriations Committee voted 9-2 in favor of a savings package that largely followed the outline of a proposal put forth months ago by the Baldacci administration.

As final votes were taken, a more difficult challenge in the New Year to cover a new $95 million revenue shortfall loomed.

“It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be pretty,” Sen. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, predicted.

Major savings elements of the final $10-million-plus budget-closing package include $1.8 million to be derived from implementing competitive bidding for therapeutic foster care, $1.2 million to come from the increased placement of children in state custody in family settings and $1 million from a standardization of lottery commission agent commissions.

In June, Maine lawmakers enacted a $6.3 billion biennial budget package, setting spending priorities for the next two years. Final passage in the House of Representatives came on a vote of 112-29 and in the Senate the vote was 28-7.

The biennial budget covers the two years that began July 1. The Appropriations panel began soliciting ideas for a last $10.1 million in savings in midsummer and is due to put a recommendation before the full Legislature after the House and Senate reconvene in January.

Preparing a report for this month, the state Revenue Forecasting Committee specified a new $95 million cut in General Fund revenue projections.

The forecasters expressed pessimism about sales and corporate tax collections and acknowledged that the state is unlikely to collect what it once expected from dormant gift card assets for cards purchased in Maine from out-of-state corporations.

A supplemental budget package from the Baldacci administration is expected in January.


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