AUGUSTA — State revenues are coming up short, Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday during a radio interview.
 
LePage said money flowing into state coffers came “to a complete screech” during November and December and are expected to remain low for at least the next couple of months.
 
“We don’t know if that’s a trend. We’re looking into it,” LePage told WGAN in Portland.
 
A shortfall in projected revenues exacerbates pressure on the state budget at just the moment the governor is trying to put the final touches on a proposed two-year spending plan.
 
“This is a bear of a budget,” LePage said.
 
The governor said he’s working hard to get it done by the Jan. 6 deadline. His proposal is merely the first step in a long process toward the crafting of a spending plan in the Legislature that will almost certainly look very different by the end.
 
LePage offered a few clues about problems he’s seen in spending requests.
 
He said the state’s Office of Information Technology, for example, is seeking a $50 million increase.
 
LePage said he’s asking why because he wants to know what the return on the investment would be for taxpayers.
 
The technology office  is responsible for ensuring the state has “safe, secure and high-performing networks and systems.”
 
LePage also said the state’s university system is looking for a 15 percent hike.
 
“The demands are just absolutely unreasonable,” the governor said.
 
He said he told bureaucrats that he didn’t plan to increase spending, but many apparently ignored him.
 
“Everybody wants to spend,” the governor said.
 
LePage said he still intends to deliver a flat-funded budget that doesn’t hike spending over current levels, a move that necessarily means cutting services and personnel because inflation has cut the value of the money a bit over time.
LePage said he has no intention of asking for any income tax increase either.
 
With revenues falling off, the governor said, officials are left with “a guessing game” as they look ahead.
 
He said the state’s Consensus Economic Forecasting Committee last month “kicked the can down the road” in terms of trying to predict what the economy will do.
 
LePage said it didn’t want to try to factor in the impact of the minimum wage hike taking effect Jan. 7 or the higher income tax on top earners that voters imposed — issues the governor said are likely to slam Maine’s economy in the coming year.
 
“I’m very, very concerned about what the budget’s going to look like,” LePage said.

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