AUGUSTA — A proposal to allow the state to negotiate a uniform teacher contract throughout Maine fell short in the House on Tuesday.

By an 80-68 vote, lawmakers declined to create a pilot program that would let school districts choose to rely on a contract the state would negotiate with teachers.

Rep. David McCrea, D-Fort Fairfield, said that given the state’s track record dealing with teachers, employees and retirees “is it any wonder that teachers have lost much of their trust” in putting their pay and benefits in the hands of a governor.

“Something about this proposal does not ring true,” McCrea said.

Gov. Paul LePage cited the proposal Tuesday morning in a radio interview as one reform item that would help to make a budget deal possible. But Democrats in the House showed little hesitation in shelving it anyway.

Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, urged colleagues to give the measure a chance.

“This is an experiment. This is an opportunity for Maine to say ‘let’s stick our toe in the water,’ ” he said.

Fredette said the state has to find ways to pare education costs. He said it “doesn’t take a genius” to see the state can’t continue to spend more each year while the overall number of students keeps shrinking.

Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, the bill’s sponsor, urged colleagues to be courageous and not worry about “the optics” of favoring the proposal.

“We should give our local communities the opportunity” to decide for themselves whether to opt in to a state contract, said Rep. Norman Higgins, R-Dover Foxcroft.

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