LePage vetoes 64 budget lines worth $60 million

Gov. Paul LePage, R-Maine. BDN File photo by Troy R. Bennett.

Gov. Paul LePage, R-Maine. BDN File photo by Troy R. Bennett.

As expected, Gov. Paul LePage’s office delivered dozens of line-item budget vetoes to the Legislature this morning.

As he did during a press conference yesterday, LePage blasted lawmakers for gutting many of the provisions of his proposal, including welfare cuts, increased spending on drug enforcement and payments to eliminate government waitlists for services for the elderly, disabled and mentally ill.

“Mainers want a budget that can be used used as blueprint for prosperity for our great state,” LePage wrote in an accompanying letter. “Instead, legislators delayed the process for five months, then presented a business-as-usual budget patched together at the last minute.”

Normally, vetoes come with individual letters stating what the governor has vetoed, and why. The line items, however, came with no such letters, or even a list of which lines the governor had nixed. LePage simply crossed lines out of the 694-page budget document.

House of Representatives staff pored through the document, pulling out vetoed lines so they could be considered for override votes. It was a timely process, which probably shouldn’t surprise anyone: LePage said yesterday that he wanted to “waste a little of [legislators’] time.”

Only a simple majority of lawmakers is needed to override a line-item veto. After the line items are considered by the Legislature, LePage can still veto the entire budget. A two-thirds vote will be needed to override that veto.

There are 64 line item vetoes, according to the governor’s office, but each line item appears separately in each year of the biennial budget. Because it would take hours to hold 188 individual veto override votes (LePage said yesterday he wanted to waste lawmakers’ time), House staff is trying to determine what can be done to speed things up.

“We are trying to figure out the most efficient way to do it that meets the requirement in the Constitution,” said Jodi Quintero, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “We anticipate it will come up later in today’s session.”

LePage’s line-item vetoes included:

  • More than $30 million in cuts to state funding for Maine’s K-12 schools.
  • $4.1 million in cuts to food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income. LePage’s office said this is how much would be saved by no longer providing benefits for legally present noncitizens — a move he tried to make, but the Legislature blocked.
  • $1 million in new funding for Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers, which LePage said was unnecessary.
  • $1 million in funding for scholarships and grants for the Put ME to Work program, a signature initiative of House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.
  • $500,000 for a Maine DOT study of expanded passenger rail service in Bangor and Lewiston.
  • $410,000 in funding to expand workforce development at Brunswick Landing.
  • $300,000 in funding for Maine’s Drug Courts, a drug-addiction treatment program.
  • $200,000 in funding for the state to buy the Frances Perkins Homestead in Newcastle.
  • $200,000 in funding for the Historic Preservation Commission.
  • $55,000 in funding for Meals on Wheels for Medicaid patients.

You can see the individual pages of the budget that LePage hit with line-item vetoes, here.

Check back for updates.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.