Maine governor: Put aside 'petty egos' and send me a budget

By DAVID SHARP Markets Associated Press

Republican Gov. Paul LePage urged lawmakers to put aside "petty egos" and send him a budget on Sunday as a legislative panel sought common ground on a proposal promoted by House Republicans who torpedoed the previous spending bill.

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LePage posted a Facebook video in which he chastised Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau and Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon.

"We were elected to serve 1.3 million people in the state of Maine — not shut down government for the press," he said. "The time for delay is over."

The governor's comments did little to ease tension around the Statehouse, where many lawmakers blamed LePage and House Republicans for the shutdown.

The six-member budget-negotiating panel met behind closed doors for much of the day but began going through the proposal line by line Sunday evening in hopes of producing a state budget that can be voted on by the full House and Senate before the Fourth of July.

The revised budget contained $162 million in increased education spending to partially offset removal of a voter-approved 3 percent surcharge on income of wealthy Maine residents that was aimed to boosting state spending on K-12 education.

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The panel voted late Sunday to keep a lodging tax increase but voted to delay implementation by a month to Nov. 1. LePage said he won't sign a budget with a tax increase. But Thibodeau said eliminating of the surcharge more than made up for it.

With the state government shutdown in its second day, the session got off to a rocky start when Gideon scolded House Republicans for making changes to the latest proposal. Democrats have accused the governor and House Republicans of repeatedly changing their demands.

"I can barely contain my fury," Gideon said.

Republicans assured her there would be no more changes.

"I don't think there's anything nefarious," Republican Rep. Tom Winsor said.

Maine state government went into partial shutdown Saturday because of lawmakers' failure to approve a new two-year budget.

There was not a huge impact over the weekend as state parks remained open, ferries continued to operate and law officers remained on duty.

Residents were expected to see a greater impact Monday in the form of closed offices. Residents will not be able to renew driver's licenses, obtain vehicle titles and registrations or take road tests for new licenses, for example.

LePage said he was granting administrative leave Monday, treating the holiday the same as the day before Christmas, to ensure workers are eventually paid.

The state's first shutdown since 1991 was set in motion when House Republicans shot down a $7.1 billion compromise budget Friday night, putting most of the 12,000 state government workers out of work.

While negotiators plugged away, rank-and-file lawmakers were left spinning their wheels before being told that there would be no Sunday session of the House and Senate, delaying final votes until Monday at the earliest.

With no custodians on duty, the House clerk began vacuuming. Rep. Owen Casas used a broom to sweep both four-story staircases and some other areas.

"If I'm going to go to work, I'm at least going to do something productive," said Casas, an independent from Rockport, who described himself as a "highly trained custodian" due to his service in the Marines.