PORTLAND, Maine — THE BUDGET

Time is growing short for finalizing a state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. And this past week, Gov. Janet Mills (D-Maine) amended her budget proposal to include hiring more caseworkers for child protective and mental health services, and to pay off the last $15 million owed to the federal government to repay funds given to the state during the years the Riverview Psychiatric Hospital was not certified.

Former Republican state Senator Phil Harriman, says these new priorities may give Republicans some leverage in cutting other areas of the budget. He asks, "What are the Republicans going to want, and what is she going to be willing to give them? I think we're headed for some tough, tough discussions before the Legislature can pass a budget."

Former Speaker of the House, Democrat John Richardson says legislators are already getting nervous about the approaching deadline. Richardson says "This should've been in the budget, to begin with, and then you would never have to add something and then subtract something later on."

UTILITY TAKEOVER?

Lawmakers are hearing arguments about a proposal by Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) to have Central Maine Power and Emera Maine bought out to create a new publicly owned Maine Power Delivery Authority.

Richardson believes CMP brought this challenge on with a number of problems that angered consumers.

But Harriman says even if the idea has merit, this is a big issue to tackle in a short period. "I don't know how they're going to put together a package to properly pay for the value of that and to issue a revenue bond to pay for it."

VACCINE REVERSAL

The Maine Senate reversed course and agreed with the House to eliminate religious exemptions for vaccinating children going to public school. 

Phil Harriman says he's surprised that it was the Senate that flipped.

John Richardson chalks it up to public pressure. He says "I think the press did a very good job, the editorials, and people started calling in, and that is what made the difference."

A COMPETETIVE SENATE RACE?

The Maine Democratic Party issued a press release announcing an expansion of its communications operation "to hold Senator Susan Collins accountable in the competitive 2020 election." But so far, there are not even any official Democratic challengers in the race.

Says Harriman, "The communications part of the Democrat Party is telling us this race is competitive, and they don't even have a candidate? That tells us how passionate the Democrats are to try to win that seat."

Richardson believes Sen. Collins is vulnerable, first from the right flank in the primary. He says "I think someone will emerge will challenge her, and I think that's going to damage her in the long run as we go to the general election."

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