AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Legislators and state employees were waiting for another vote Monday evening on the latest compromise state budget proposal. The proposal passed in the House earlier in the day on a 92-54 vote, but that was still nine votes short of the needed two-thirds majority.
A majority of House Republicans are opposing the budget plan, as is Gov. Paul LePage, saying they want to eliminate the proposed $20 million increase in the lodging tax.
LePage has said for more than a week that he will not sign a budget with a tax increase. He reiterated that on Monday, and attended a late afternoon House GOP caucus at the State House to say it again. Republicans then began circulating a brief letter from the Governor, which stated:
"If the budget bill that is before you is amended to remove the increase in the lodging tax, I pledge to sign it immediately."
Democratic leaders, who have already agreed to eliminate the 3 percent income tax surtax on higher incomes, passed by voters as Question 2, are so far refusing to bend on the lodging tax. Speaker of the House Sara Gideon said the money the tax would raise is needed to finance some items in the second year of the budget. And she said eliminating the 3 percent surtax represents a $320 million tax cut.
Speaker Gideon said she had been meeting with and trying to persuade more Republicans to vote for the budget. And Senate Republicans, who unanimously endorsed the budget package Monday, have reportedly been trying to persuade some House GOP counterparts to change their votes and support the proposal. Those discussions may have been one reason the House vote had still not happened, several hours after it was originally expected to occur.
The vote is now expected sometime Monday evening.
Regardless of the outcome of the vote, it appears the state government shutdown will continue. If the budget fails to win the needed two-thirds support for passage, it will go back to the negotiating table Monday night or Tuesday. If it passes, Gov. LePage has said he will wait the full 10 days allowed by law to either veto or allow the bill to become law without his signature.
In either case, thousands of state workers would continue to be shut out of their regular jobs.