AUGUSTA — Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said Tuesday a state revenue surplus of about $73 million should be used first to help cover the state’s bills before being put into Maine’s savings account.

Rotundo joined other Democrats in countering a bill being offered by Republican Gov. Paul LePage that seeks to put all of the unexpected revenue into the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund, which is also called “rainy-day” fund.

“No family would deposit the entirety of their paycheck into their savings account without paying rent for this month first,” Rotundo said in a prepared statement issued Tuesday.“We cannot handcuff the Legislature from using resources available to us to address critical concerns that undermine our future now. It is possible to save responsibly while dealing with the reality of the needs before us.”

Rotundo, the House chairwoman of the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee, is countering arguments made by other committee members, including the committee’s Senate chairman, Jim Hamper, R-Oxford.

Hamper and Rep. Tom Winsor, R-Norway, also a member of the committee, are co-sponsors of a bill that would move the surplus funds to the savings account.

“The residents of my district expect state government to manage their tax dollars responsibly,” Hamper said in a prepared statement, also issued Tuesday. “Dedicating this one-time increase in revenue to savings will ensure that our financial reserves are adequate to help Maine weather the next economic downturn we face.”


But House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said that at least some of the windfall should go to help pay for increasing costs at both the state and local levels.

“For years, Maine has had to make tough choices to recover from the Great Recession,” Eves said in a release Tuesday. “As a result, we’ve fallen seriously behind other states that have continued to invest in their communities. Yes, of course, we should save for the future. But we can’t ignore the mounting and dangerous challenges that face our families and infrastructure today.”

LePage said the state must have a larger sum in its savings account to protect the state’s borrowing interest rate from climbing too high. 

In his weekly radio address released Tuesday, LePage charged Democrats with trying to “steal” the surplus with the creation of a supplemental budget to earmark spending on a variety of proposals.

“The state’s current balance would only fund state operations for 8.5 days in the event of a catastrophic event,” LePage said in the address. “The Boston Federal Reserve has recommended that we need 30 to 40 days (of reserves) to improve our state’s financial strength.”

The battle between Republicans and Democrats over how much of the surplus revenue should be spent and how much should be saved is likely to be a key focal point for legislative debates in the weeks ahead.

Some lawmakers, including Democrats and Republicans, on Tuesday were also contemplating the possibility that some of the surplus revenue should be returned to Maine taxpayers.

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