AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Democrats at the State House said Thursday they have a state budget plan that is better for Maine than the one proposed three months ago by Gov. Paul LePage.
Their plan would require a big increase in the budget, especially for education and property tax relief.
Talks on Gov. LePage’s proposed two-year budget have been ongoing after weeks of public hearings. Democrats have been very critical of that plan, which cuts a wide range of programs in order to cut income taxes.
The Democrats' proposal would eliminate the income tax cut and virtually all of the other cuts in the Governor’s plan. Instead, It would increase spending by more than $600 million from what LePage proposes.
Democrats say some of that money would come from the new marijuana tax and expected sales tax revenue from Amazon and other online sales. More they say would from a projected growth in state tax revenues.
The proposal would allocate an additional $370 million to education, with most of that coming from the 3 percent income tax increase on higher incomes, which was approved by voters in November. Nearly $150 million would be directed to property tax relief programs.
Republican leaders called the plan more "tax and spend" and said the expanded spending won’t get support from them. But Democrats said Maine people need lower property taxes and better schools, and that means the budget has to provide them.
The new proposal will become part of the ongoing budget debate. Lawmakers need to pass a new budget before the end of June, and it will require significant support from both parties to do that.
Party leaders on Thursday admitted they are "far apart" at the moment, and will need significant compromise to come to an agreement on a new budget package.