AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — State Senate President Mike Thibodeau and Republicans are willing to spend an additional $100 million on K-12 schools in the new state budget. It's the first time Republicans have given a specific dollar amount for added school funding, which has become the key issue in budget negotiations.
Prior to Thibodeau's statement, Democratic Speaker of the House Sara Gideon told NEWS CENTER her party was waiting for an offer from the GOP. Speaker Gideon said Democrats want to see $320 million in added education spending, which she said is what's needed to reach the long debated 55 percent level of school funding. Thibodeau, however, said the GOP plan would reach 55 percent as well.
The other key issue for the budget is the 3 percent income tax surtax on higher incomes, which was passed by voters in November. That surtax is estimated to raise about $160 million per year and is dedicated to schools. Republicans want the tax eliminated, claiming it will hurt Maine's economy. Gideon said Wednesday Democrats are willing to drop the tax but want to still see an equal amount of added funding for schools.
The two top Legislative leaders said time is getting tight on budget talks. The parties were at a stalemate for weeks over the education and tax issues. Thibodeau said Wednesday he believes "cooler heads will prevail," and that they will be able to find a budget compromise.