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Politics

Committee Recommends $64 Million Supplemental Budget

The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee has voted unanimously to recommend a $64 million supplemental state budget to meet needs in state government through the end of June.

Some of the money will go to programs that are short on cash, but most of it is going into the state’s so-called rainy day fund.

Of the $64 million appropriated, $35 million will go directly into to the state reserve fund, commonly called the rainy day fund. That account holds money set aside to meet any unforeseen emergencies or a downturn in the economy. The measure also includes $29 million in spending for a wide array of programs, much of it in small amounts.

Democratic state Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook, who co-chairs the committee, says several funding requests, including those from county jails and indigent legal services, were turned down by the panel.

“We came to an agreement on a package of things that I think are very important and that we all can agree on,” he says.

The measure allocates just over $5 million to the University of Maine System to keep tuition rates stable, over $5 million to rebuild two fish hatcheries and a $7 million fund to bail out the Maine Military Authority, which has had cash flow problems.

While supplemental budgets historically only fund ongoing programs, this bill allocates nearly $5 million in state and federal funds for a new initiative to treat about 400 Mainers struggling with drug addiction.

“I think it is a good start,” says Republican Sen. Jim Hamper of Oxford, who co-chairs the committee. “It’s a start of, shall we say, a pilot program. Let’s see if this model works.”

The bill also provides some additional funding to the medical examiner’s office to handle the increasing number of autopsies generated by the drug crisis. And it provides $155,000 to the secretary of state to pay for the June referendum election that currently has just one ballot item, a bond issue.

The full Legislature considers the supplemental budget next week.