Maine House Overrides LePage Budget Veto
AUGUSTA — In a vote of 114 to 34, the Maine House prevented a massive property tax hike and a shutdown of state government on Wednesday by overriding the governor’s veto of a responsible bipartisan budget.
The $6.3 billion bipartisan budget compromise was passed unanimously by the Legislature’s Appropriations committee and passed by more than the required two-thirds support of the House and Senate.
“I thank the Maine lawmakers who worked tirelessly and came together to override this careless veto,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “We put to rest the specter of a state shutdown that has loomed over the Legislature for months. We made the responsible choice to support a bipartisan budget that blunts massive property tax hikes, puts money back into our classrooms and helps our seniors and people with disabilities.”
The bipartisan budget compromise significantly reduces the cuts to cities, towns and Maine’s schools that the governor proposed in his version of the budget. The bipartisan budget passed by the Legislature restores $125 million to revenue sharing, replaces the Circuit Breaker cuts with a $29 million property tax fairness credit and restores $9 million in cuts to the Homestead Tax Credit. It also restores $37 million in cuts to Maine’s public school classrooms and provides funds for the early education program Head Start.
The House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said the vote affirmed the “collaborative and responsible” work of the budget committee.
“The bipartisan budget we again endorsed today will serve the people of Maine well. A government shutdown would not serve anyone,” said Rotundo.
A shutdown would have resulted in jobs losses and harm to the state’s tourism industry, disrupting park, beach, and ferry services. Vital state work would screech to a halt, including food and safety inspections, court hearings, motor vehicle department operations, and critical payments to nursing homes and hospitals. Some feared it might lower the state’s bond rating, leading to potentially higher interest rates for the liquor revenue bonds that would be issued to pay the hospital debt.
“I applaud lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for standing up to the governor’s reckless action and standing up for Maine people. The governor’s political games could have led to serious consequences: a shutdown of important services, property tax hikes, harm to workers and the health of our economy,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham.
Six months ago, LePage presented the Legislature with a budget that would shift nearly $400 million of the tax burden to communities and their property taxpayers. In order to prevent those property tax hikes, the bipartisan compromise included a temporary half-penny increase in the sales tax and a 1 percent increase in the meals and lodging tax that both sunset after two years. It also caps $65 million in income tax deductions for the wealthy and closes $40 million in corporate loopholes to be identified by a task force.
“No one got everything they wanted out of this compromise budget, but lawmakers were able to find common ground through hard work. They came together once again today for the well-being of our people and our state,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan.
The Maine Senate now must take action on the veto.