AUGUSTA — In a show of bipartisan strength Tuesday, the Maine Legislature stood up to Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a new $6.7 billion state budget that cuts the state’s income tax rate and stretches the sales tax in an attempt to export more of the state’s costs to visitors.

The House voted 109-37 to override, and the Senate joined suit shortly before noon voting 25-10, which will make the spending package law on Wednesday.

The run up to the override votes in the House and Senate included a variety of protests — including one involving a Christmas tree and some toy pigs by LePage. On Tuesday, LePage brought a broom to a rally with supports to indicate his veto of the budget — along with more than 160 other bills this session was an attempt to clean up state government.

But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seemed to have had it with a governor, who has a flair for the dramatic, and seems nearly unwilling to compromise. Adding to their frustration with LePage has been his use of the veto pen as a means of punishing lawmakers for not advancing his agenda, including a statewide vote to repeal the state’s income tax.

On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, long a staunch ally of LePage, credited the governor for elevating the discussion on the income tax cut but he also urged his colleagues to join him in voting to overturn the veto.

Fredette said the budget didn’t have everything Republicans wanted but it did have much they could be proud of and a vote to sustain LePage’s protest of the budget would risk a state government shutdown.


The budget as it stood provided a broad swath of both income and property tax relief to Maine’s middle-income earners, Fredette said.

Fredettte said those earning up to $50,000 a year would now pay a state income tax rate of just 6.75 percent.  That’s a change from current law that sees all those make more than just $20,000 paying a rate of 7.95 percent.

“That is significant income tax reduction and it is focused on the middle class, many of those people that we want to have stay here in Maine . . . you’re a young family, you have young children, we want you to stay here in Maine, we are going to put money back in your pocket,” Fredette said summarizing the message of the override vote.

Much of the budget passed into law Tuesday came from LePage budget proposal rolled out in January. Because it didn’t go far enough to cut taxes and failed to provide expanded funding for programs LePage favored, he took his veto pen to the measure.

Republican lawmakers in the House who stood with LePage railed against the new budget’s lack of funding for some unfortunate Mainers including those with brain injuries and developmental disabilities and groups of the elderly.

“This is not right,” said state Rep. Deb Sanderson, R-Chelsea, who repeated themes outlined in LePage’s veto message from Monday


Sanderson urged her colleagues to oppose the bill and that the threat of a government shutdown was a false choice because there was a bill available to temporarily fund state government. 

State Rep. Richard Pickett, R-East Dixfield, said he was voting against the budget because it didn’t include enough funding to help Maine’s nursing homes and the elderly. 

“Here’s the bottom line to all of this I believe our responsibility to our elderly Maine people is a sacred trust,” Pickett said. “Our mothers, our fathers, our aunts and our uncles were among the builders of Maine. I refuse to compromise with people until they realize that our grandmothers and our grandfathers come first. These people paid their dues, they raised their families and received no welfare from the state. Welfare as it is now passed out today did not exist.”

But state Rep. Gina Melaragno, D-Auburn, said House Republicans were leaving out an important part of the budget story as they complained of there not being enough funding in the budget for the disabled and elderly.

“There were certain folks in this room that fought hard to reduce the taxes of the wealthiest in this state — they fought hard and they got a lot of that,” Melaragno said. “Let’s remember when we talk about the neediest people in our state that there were certain people that fought really hard to get the tax breaks for the wealthiest in our state, while talking out of the other side of their mouth saying they care for needy people, so let’s keep that in mind as well.”

At one point in Melaragno’s speech state Rep. Bruce Bickford, R-Auburn, asked if she was questioning the integrity of her colleagues when a member of the public in the balcony shouted — “I am!”


Other Democrats and Fredette, as well, refuted that saying the Legislature had run out of time and the budget they had before them was the only clear way to keep the state open for business.

Fredette echoed a theme that has been repeated by House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and state Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport.

He said the budget was not without flaws in his estimation, but he was supporting the override vote just the same.

“It is what it is,” Fredette said. “Ladies and folks, we have divided government, we have a Democratic House, we have a Republican Senate and a Republican governor. This is divided government folks. You don’t get everything that you want.”

The Senate then voted to overturn the veto with no floor debate.


• 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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