The first regular session of the legislature is over but legislators left Augusta without acting on a whole host of issues. Maine Public Senior Political Correspondent Mal Leary spoke with Nora Flaherty on All Things Considered about what did and did not get done.
Nora Flaherty: Mal, they came in last December. What have they accomplished over these many months of deliberations?
Mal Leary: Well there were there were hundreds of bills passed ranging from fixing a problem with the language in a local sewer district, there's an awful lot of those kind of bills because such entities are created by the legislature and only the legislature can change them, to passing of course the state budget for the next two years.
And let's face it the budget really is the only legislation they have to get done, and that's because it provides funding for all the activities of state government, from law enforcement to human services to that person that processes your drivers license renewal. It also contains several major initiatives of the governor. In this case, Governor Mills' initiative for expanding Medicaid. The voters approved it. If you recall, Governor LePage blocked the funding that's now been funded in moving forward. She also put significant money in her budget for property tax relief, as well as additional money for education, both K through 12 and higher education facilities, like the university system. But that said there's a lot that did not get done.
So what are some examples of things that didn't get done?
Well the big one has to be the bond issues. The governor proposed $239 million in bonding. None was approved because Republicans felt the overall amount was too high. They wanted to just put out a transportation bond to the voters for their approval, that would be somewhere around $100 million. Democrats said other issues, like higher education, funding for the land for Maine's future program, also deserve support, and the chance for the voters to decide whether they wanted to invest in those programs. The Governor hopes lawmakers can work out some sort of compromise over the summer and come up with a bond package that will go to the voters in November.
So no bond money for transportation. What does that mean for road and bridge repairs and improvements around the state?
Well it's really not good news. There's some money in the pipeline from the bond approved by voters last year, and there's no indication that the costs of steel for bridges or asphalt for roads will go down, and there are really some fears they'll go up and that this money just won't go as far as they had hoped.
So they didn't manage to agree on any bonds. What else didn't get done?
Well was it interesting. There was an order passed early in the morning hours of the final day, where they literally carried over hundreds of bills to the second session of this legislature that convenes in January.
And, I got to bring up bonds again because a lot of the bills carried over are for bonding, but this also, literally scores of bills that have a price tag that were not funded by the legislature during this session. I put a lot of those requests in spending bills in the wishful thinking category, because of the total hundreds of millions of dollars. It's likely that only a few million dollars will be available come next January for funding all of those requests as well.
All right. Well, we'll see what happens, veto day or next year during the session.