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Tensions Flare As Maine Budget Panel Advances Bills To Pay Direct Care Workers And Fund Jails

Mal Leary
Maine Public
The Legislature's Appropriations Committee Co-chairs, Sen. Jim Hamper, left, and Rep. Drew Gattine.

The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee has reported out a "mini-budget" bill that would pay direct care workers at current levels for another year, starting July 1. It would also provide some money for county jails.

“Resolving this issue around the direct care workers is incredibly important and it is something I think we were all committed to trying to find a way to get done," said Rep. Drew Gattine, a Democrat from Westbrook who co-chairs the committee.

But the tone of the negotiations between the leaders of the Appropriations Committee was tense, and at times tempers flared and it looked like nothing would be accomplished.

Rep. Jeff Timberlake, a Republican committee member from Turner, said he's upset by Democrats' efforts to keep alive the county jails bill for possible additional funding.

“That wasn’t what I agreed upon, and that wasn’t what we agreed upon," Timberlake said. "You know, if we’re going to do that, we should have had nursing homes in this, and to this day I am so mad over it I can’t see straight.”

Other issues will be considered when the panel meets again, which could be next week.

“This is just act 2, scene 1," said the committee's Republican co-chair, Sen. Jim Hamper. "There’s a whole lot more to go. There is a whole lot more bills that we need to be dealing with and considering.”

It's not clear yet when there will be a special session to act on this agreement and other bills, including bond proposals.  That won’t be decided until after further agreements are hammered out.

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