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Maine Lawmakers Pass Two-Year State Budget, With Few Votes To Spare

After a day of closed-door negotiations, doors have opened on a vote for a two-year state budget. The nearly $8 billion budget required a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate, and received that with few votes to spare.

The House voted 104 to 38 and the Senate 25 to 9. Democratic Senator Cathy Breen of Falmouth co-chairs the Appropriations Committee and says the budget is a good compromise.

“A smart, responsible and bipartisan budget that address Maine’s greatest needs but also puts savings aside for future emergencies that may occur,” Breen says.

Republicans who voted for the budget still worry that it does not put enough aside for a downturn in the economy.

Gov. Janet Mills says she will sign the budget bill early in the week.

Sen Jim Hamper, a Republican from Oxford, is a member of the Appropriations Committee who supported passage

“Just about half of the increase in the spending from one budget to the next is driven by what the voters and thrust upon this legislative body.” Hamper was referring to the Medicaid and minimum wage increase referenda.

Rep. Drew Gattine, a Democrat from Westbrook and co-chair of the Committee, calls the budget “A pathway that will lead to better education for our students, improved health care for all Mainers, a better trained workforce, a cleaner environment, a greater opportunity for our older neighbors to remain independently in their homes, and support for much needed economic development.”

Rep. Nathan Wadsworth, a Republican from Hiram, also serves on the Committee and voted no.

“We are in the longest bull run in U.S. history, and when times are good we need to save,” he says. “This budget is not putting nearly enough into the rainy day fund to protect against economic downtrends.”

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