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State Budget Plan to be Hammered Out in Public

Jay Field
Maine Public/file
Sara Gideon, currently the speaker of the Maine House, answers questions at a news event in March of 2015.

After a weekend of intensive private budget talks, legislative leaders in Augusta are turning to a little-used rule allowing the creation of a “committee of conference” to hammer out a plan in public.

House Speaker Sara Gideon says the plan is to run the two major budget proposals — one is expected to pass in the House and another in the Senate — setting the stage for the rarely used conference committee process.

“What we were trying to do is to jump start a conversation that we felt was long overdue, and so we will be continuing to explore those things,” Gideon says. “But you’re going to see us having those conversations in public this week instead around this table.”

Senate President Mike Thibodeau says it’s clear the parties are still far apart on the school funding issues that must be resolved to reach a budget agreement. He thinks public talks may help reach that goal.

“The fact that we are getting to a committee of conference rather than having it worked out in the Appropriations Committee is a clear indication that there are different ideas surrounding what the budget should look like,” he says.

The House, on a 81-64 vote, sent the Democratic version of the state budget to the Senate, which is out until Tuesday morning. The Senate is expected to pass the Senate Republican version of the budget, setting up the process for the creation for the committee of conference.

Once the conference committee is named by the speaker and the Senate president, they will start their work in public to negotiate a budget.

This story was originally published on June 12, 2017 at 1:20 p.m. ET.