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Legislature's Budget-Writing Committee At Odds Over Mills' Spending Plan

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
The Maine State House is seen Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Augusta, Maine.

Maine legislators are still working to come to an agreement on the state budget. The budget-writing appropriations committee worked through the weekend to try and resolve differences between Republicans and Democrats.Some members of the panel are trying to reduce the proposed increase in the growth of state spending by not funding all the new positions and other initiatives proposed by Gov. Janet Mills.

Higher Ed is one area of disagreement.

Mills has proposed a compounded 3% a year increase for all of the public higher educational institutions, at a cost of $24 million. Committee Democrats, such as Rep. Teresa Pierce of Falmouth, are supporting  a 2.5% increase.

“We would like to recommend that we do a 2.5 [percent] increase in each biennium, including the compounded amount, and that would result in about a $20 million investment in our higher ed for this budget cycle," Pierce said.

Democrats need some Republican votes to pass the final budget, and Republicans maintain the proposed spending plan still supports too much growth.  For example, they want far fewer than the 73 new positions proposed in the Department of Education at a cost of more than $7 million.

"The issue for us is the doubling in the second year," said Waterford Republican Rep. Sawin Millett. 

However, many reductions do have the panel's broad support, including reducing the number of Maine Marine Patrol craft replacements called for in the budget.

The talks are continuing.

Updated June 3, 2019 at 1:26 p.m. ET.   

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