Special Panel Reaches Another Budget Agreement, as Shutdown Enters Day Three
A special committee working to pass a state budget and put an end to Maine's first government shutdown in 27 years voted 5-1 on Sunday to amend last week's compromise.
The original compromise plan failed on Friday when funding for state government ran out at midnight. The new plan is designed to win the support of House Republicans, who forced the shutdown and have been adding new demands originating from Gov. Paul LePage.
The amended plan could suffer the same fate because it contains a 1.5 percent lodging tax increase that LePage opposes. However, pressure is mounting on the House GOP as the shutdown drags on and their role as the governor's surrogate is increasingly criticized by thousands of state workers who are now out of work.
LePage apparently sought to ease the pressure on Sunday, when he announced late in the evening that he was giving most state employees a paid day off on Monday -- the same day protests are expected at the State House.
LePage has also attempted shift the blame for the shutdown on Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon, blasting her and Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau in a recorded video from the Blaine House mansion.
The amended budget contains relatively minor changes included in the House GOP proposal. Rep. Tom Winsor, R-Norway, sits on the special committee. He was the lone vote against the changes, potentially foreshadowing GOP caucus opposition.
The House and Senate vote could take place Monday. Each chamber will need to hit two-thirds support to advance the budget to LePage.
The votes are expected to be there in the Republican Senate, but it's unclear whether the House will hit the threshold.