Maine Legislature tries piecemeal budget in last-ditch effort to win GOP support

Good morning from Augusta, where a long day of work on Wednesday produced a piecemeal spending proposal that aims to win at least some support from holdout Republicans in the House of Representatives.

That caucus, buoyed by an alliance with Gov. Paul LePage, has stood against Democrats and Senate Republicans to oppose new spending in 2016 and voted against an $11 million spending package on Tuesday.

But since then, members have said they could support certain standalone bills and Legislature’s budget-writing committee gave them that opportunity on Wednesday, approving a handful that have already passed the Legislature and are now awaiting funding.

Together, all the bills would cost $13.3 million in General Fund money, according to the office of House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

Two of them — a $7.3 million wage boost for state law enforcement officials and a $3 million fund to provide Mainers with food insecurity with food harvested in the state — got unanimous votes on the committee.

But other bills, including one that would provide $2.5 million in emergency jail funding, passed with divided reports. So, even if they pass the Legislature, House Republicans could block an override of any veto from LePage.

Expect vetoes of those bills — and many others — to come in flurries as the pace at which the Legislature sends paper to LePage accelerates in the waning days of this session.

The Legislature could begin voting on the package on Thursday, which will be a long day in Augusta. The Senate comes back at 10 a.m., with the House session not scheduled until 6 p.m.

That kind of work deserves a soundtrack. After the Wednesday death of country legend Merle Haggard, I couldn’t find anything better than this. — Michael Shepherd

LePage: 900 Maine jobs to be lost; housing bonds won’t be signed

LePage said at a town hall meeting in Orono on Wednesday a mystery company in southern Maine is about to shed 900 jobs and that he won’t sign a $15 million senior housing bond passed by voters last year.

The jobs comments, reported by MPBN, were vague: He wouldn’t name the company and said he was “sworn to secrecy” until it’s public, but that high energy costs are making it difficult for it to compete on an international level.

Energy costs are one of the governor’s main talking points at town hall meetings. His comments are reminiscent of others in 2011, when he refused to name Maine towns that he said were “ready to default.” No towns defaulted.

LePage’s housing bond comments are nearly as notable. He said a bond approved by voters in November 2015 wouldn’t be authorized as long as he’s in office, according to WVII, a Bangor ABC affiliate. It comes after he held up conservation bonds for much of the past year.

The governor has hinted at this for months, saying he wants the private sector to pay for housing units that would have telemedicine units staffed by hospitals, a stance that has been criticized by Democrats, advocates and the housing industry.

It led to an Eves effort to get the Legislature to pass a bill forcing LePage to issue the bonds, which he has five years to do, but it’s likely dead after being indefinitely postponed in the Republican-led Senate.

So, it looks like this issue will continue to be a political football — and perhaps a bargaining chip for the governor — going into the 2016 elections and the next Legislature in 2017. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • A man and a woman “discussed theft of personal information” at the Bar Harbor transfer station on Wednesday, but things escalated: “Damn you looked tasty, you look like a fun girl,” he says, “the kind of girl a hungry married man like me might like to meet.” It started off so pure.
  • A couple fittingly named Hare is trolling people by flagging posts on the pet section, according to one poster: “Well Mr and Mrs Hare I wouldn’t sell you my last bowel movement!!!” that person says. “Flag away!!!”
  • Someone has been waiting for two films — “Knight of Cups” and “The Lobster” — to play at the Nickelodeon in Portland. At one point, “Knight of Cups” was pulled down and replaced by “The Lobster.” Alas, that was replaced too. Our protagonist is struggling. “I’m not tough and my heart isn’t made of strings to be pulled goddamnit!!!” — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.