Maine governor orders $63M in department cutbacks

Posted Nov. 20, 2009, at 11:29 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. John Baldacci ordered Maine state departments Friday to curtail spending by $63 million to make sure the budget is balanced.

Baldacci issued the order for the fiscal year ending in mid-2010 as preliminary estimates showed a shortfall in the two-year $5.8 billion budget approaching $400 million, or nearly 7 percent.

The cuts include $38 million from state funds that support local schools and more than $11 million from the Department of Health and Human Services, according to documents available online. Of the cuts to DHHS, $6.8 million will have no impact on programs. But there are cuts to room and board rates for those with developmental disabilities, adult day services for the elderly, and a reduction in funding for homeless shelters.The governor’s order stands until the Legislature returns in January for its 2010 session and modifies the current two-year state budget. Lawmakers passed a budget this year that slashed spending by $500 million, giving Maine the first budget in three decades that was smaller than the previous one.

Similar patterns appeared in more than 30 states, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

“It’s clear now that we will have to do even more,” Baldacci said in a prepared statement. States continue to struggle even as the national recession eases, he said.

The National Governors Association, citing a survey by the budget officers’ organization, said state revenues overall declined 7.5 percent in fiscal year 2009, which for most states ended June 30.

“States are currently facing one of the worst, if not the worst, fiscal periods since the Great Depression,” says the report by the national budget officers.

As he issued his order in Maine, Baldacci pledged not to support increased taxes to close the budget gap. He plans to submit a budget reflecting the plunging revenues to lawmakers in December. Cuts that have been recommended by department heads will first be evaluated.

Baldacci said that state government payroll has been reduced by 1,000 employees during the past six years and that many programs have been restructured to reflect falling revenues.

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