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Six-Member Panel Begins Work to Resolve State Budget Impasse, Avoid Shutdown

Mal Leary
Maine Public/file
Maine Senate President Michael Thibodeau holds news conference in Augusta in May.

A six-member budget conference committee that now holds the fate of the state budget in its hands held its first meeting Tuesday evening.

The panel, formed after the House and Senate failed to agree on a budget, vowed to have a compromise plan before the full Legislature by the end of the week. 

The committee is co-chaired by Senate President Mike Thibodeau and House Speaker Sara Gideon.

“The things which unite us are, I think, stronger than the things which divide us," Gideon said, "and that  gives me confidence that we’re going to be able to complete our task over these next couple of days.”

Gideon and Thibodeau expressed cautious optimism that they can reach an agreement that can win the approval of  two-thirds of both the House and Senate,  so that the budget can take effect before the current one runs out June 30. 

Both agree that no one wants state government to shut down because a budget is not in place.  At issue in the budget battle are how much money should be appropriated for local schools, where the money comes
from, and policies for how that money is used.

“Each and every one of us sitting around here needs to recognize we’re not going to get exactly what we want," Thibodeau said. "But at the same time, hopefully, we can produce a document that is good for the state of Maine and moves us forward.”

The other four members of the conference committee include Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, Sen. Kathy Breen, D- Falmouth, Rep. Aaron Frey, D-Bangor and Rep. Tom Winsor, R-Norway.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.