AUGUSTA — The Legislature is set to reconvene Tuesday in order to take up a veto of the state’s next two-year budget issued by Republican Gov. Paul LePage on Monday afternoon.

The veto follows a failed LePage attempt to make about $60 million in cuts to the budget, when LePage used his executive authority to veto 64 line items in the budget as proposed by lawmakers.

But over a two-day period, lawmakers quickly overturned each of those vetoes with sweeping majorities in both the House and the Senate.

To override a veto, two-thirds of those present and voting must approve the move. If all members of the House are present Tuesday, 101 votes will be needed to overturn LePage’s veto. The Senate, if all 35 members are present, will need 24 votes.

LePage issued his veto message in an unusual package that included color photos of drug trafficking suspects, elderly people, an infant and adults with autism or other developmental disabilities.

LePage’s point? The budget did not include enough funding to combat the state’s growing drug problems and doesn’t go far enough to eliminate state wait lists for Department of Health and Human Service programs aimed at helping the disabled.


“Clearly, the health and public safety of Mainers is not a priority of the 127th Legislature,” LePage wrote in his veto message. “Instead, Augusta politicians sneaked in a $4 million ‘Christmas tree’ adorned with piggy projects for legislators such as buying federal land in Kittery, buying an unneeded ‘Francis Perkins Homestead,’ paying for a commission disguised as an initiative to end hunger and creating entirely new projects.”

Democrats and Republicans who crafted the $6.7 billion budget bill noted the package includes funding for four new Maine Drug Enforcement Agency officers and also allows the agency to use up to $200,000 of federal funds for staff or other projects, which could see the agency adding as many as six new officers. LePage’s original budget request was for seven.

The budget, as approved by the Legislature, reduces the state’s income tax while maintaining a 0.5 percent increase in the sales tax, keeping it at 5.5 percent, that was enacted as temporary measure in 2014.

That shift partially pays for a reduction in the state’s top marginal income tax rate from 7.95 percent to 7.15 percent.

The budget, which must be enacted by Wednesday for lawmakers to avoid a government shutdown, is the result of months of negotiations, some behind closed doors. That effort saw Republicans in the Senate ultimately split with LePage on his proposal to increase and broaden the sales tax in order to reduce the state’s income tax and eliminate its estate tax. 

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives by 10 votes, stuck to their position that any income tax breaks be focused on the middle class. They also insisted that the state’s homestead exemption, a property tax relief program, be increased and kept in place for all homeowners.


Under the current program, the first $10,000 of a primary home’s taxable value can be exempted from property taxes.

LePage wanted to double the amount of the exemption from $10,000 to $20,000 but wanted to limit eligibility to households with at least one resident who was 65 years old or older. The Democratic proposal increases the exemption to $20,000 but allows it for all households currently eligible for the exemption.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said they were urging the lawmakers in their chambers to stick to the compromise deal they had agreed upon.

“I anticipate, that while the governor points out a bunch of places where he would have preferred to spend more money, our caucus has made difficult choices about not adding additional costs above and beyond what has already been put out as a budget,” Thibodeau said. He said LePage’s veto message read to him like a request for “a lot of additional spending.”

Eves said he couldn’t predict whether a House coalition of Republicans and Democrats that included 105 lawmakers would hold, but he said he believed the budget on the table was a far better option than the alternative — a state government shutdown.

“We are urging members of the Legislature to stick to their votes and override the veto tomorrow, so we can avoid a state shutdown,” Eves said. “The bipartisan budget is a win for working families. It delivers a middle-class tax cut, property tax relief, and invests in our students and workers. It grows our economy from the middle out, not the top down.”


Thibodeau and Eves said they were equally concerned with doing more to combat Maine’s illegal drug problem, but they also said the budget they approved does add significant new resources to that end.

“But whether there are seven or eight, 10 or 12 (new drug agents), we are going to have an ongoing battle to try and stop this onslaught of terrible drugs that are a scourge to our society and destroying lives,” Thibodeau said.

Eves said the bulk of the Legislature wouldn’t be swayed by LePage’s illustrated veto message, because they have spent months reviewing his budget plan compared to the bipartisan alternative they agreed to earlier this month.

“I think people understood what they were voting for when they did vote for it,” Eves said. “They knew what was in the budget and I assume they will continue to support the budget so we don’t have to face a state government shutdown.”

Despite a host of other political developments in recent days, Eves said he still hadn’t heard anything that gave him, “great pause” to believe their coalition had collapsed.

“I think, ultimately, when a legislator is sitting in their seat and the bell starts ringing and the vote is open and you need to decide which button to push, I think an overwhelming majority, two-thirds of the Legislature, will vote to keep state government running,” Eves said.


At least one of a handful of Republican lawmakers who voted against the bipartisan budget plan originally said he was sticking to his guns and would vote to sustain LePage’s veto.

“But not because of what the governor put in his veto message but for the same reason I voted no on it the first time,” state Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, said. “I was very much in support of more welfare reform and I stand strong on that.”

LD 1019 Veto Message

Key provisions in the new state budget include:

• An $80 million increase in the amount the state sends to K-12 public schools under its General Purpose Aid formula.


• A $10 million increase in a scholarship fund aimed at helping Maine students and workers pay for college through the Maine State Grant program.

• A $28 million increase for the state’s Community College System and University of Maine.

• An $11 million increase in funding for the Community College System for job training programs for Maine workers.

• An elimination of the so-called “welfare cliff” by allowing those receiving state welfare benefits to have their benefits gradually reduced as they gain income and employment, instead of a system that ends benefits as soon as a recipient earns $1 more than the income guidelines that makes them eligible for assistance.

• About $62.5 million per year in state revenue-sharing to Maine cities and towns.

• About $48 million for the state’s Drugs for the Elderly and Medicaid Savings programs, which helps low-income seniors pay for prescription drugs.


• A $16 million increase in state funding for nursing homes, bringing the state’s total to $216 million over the two-year budget cycle.

• A $16.2 million increase in funds to help clear Department of Health and Human Services’ wait lists for people with intellectual disabilities and brain injuries.

• The elimination of the state income tax on military pensions.

• Funding for four new agents for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. The budget also allows $200,000 in federal grant money to be used at the MDEA’s discretion for hiring additional staff or for investments in other anti-drug efforts.

• Increases to the state’s sales taxes on hotel and motel lodging and restaurant meals. The lodging tax increases to 9 percent by the end of 2017 and the tax on restaurant meals will remain at 8 percent — the meals tax was scheduled to return to 7 percent on July 1.

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