LePage appeals to federal government to find funding for new cold case homicide squad

Gov. Paul LePage
Gov. Paul LePage
Posted April 12, 2014, at 5:44 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage on Friday requested that members of Maine’s congressional delegation find funding for a law enforcement cold case squad focused on solving some 120 open homicide cases.

In a letter sent to all four members of the state’s congressional delegation on Friday, LePage wrote that he does not want to see a bill supported by the Legislature this year, LD 1734, die because of a lack of state funding.

“My only directive to the Legislature was that if the squad was to be created, then the Legislature would have to provide adequate funding for it as the Department of Public Safety is currently severely underfunded and understaffed,” wrote LePage. “As this legislative session has progressed, I have anxiously watched to see whether the Legislature will fund the cold case homicide squad and other initiatives that are needed to ensure public safety. As the end of this session grows near, it appears the Legislature is not as serious about solving Maine’s cold case murders as I am.”

The bill, which earned unanimous support in the Legislature, has been placed on the so-called special appropriations table, which is where bills that will cost money go and often die if there is no funding available at the end of a legislative session.

Lawmakers have been working for months on supplemental budget bills to close an approximately $90 million funding shortfall in the current fiscal year and the next. LePage has refused to submit his own budget bill this year, which governors traditionally use to correct financial problems and propose new initiatives. Earlier this week, the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee agreed unanimously on a supplemental budget bill that is due for votes in the Legislature next week.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, creating a cold case squad that includes two Maine State Police detectives and a forensic chemist would cost more than $430,000 annually.

“If you can assist the Department of Public Safety in obtaining federal grants or other federal monies, then I believe we can finally bring justice to Maine families who have lost loved ones,” wrote LePage.

A spokesman for Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said they received LePage’s letter late Friday evening and “look forward to reviewing it closely.”

Rep. Stephen Stanley, D-Medway, who sponsored the bill, couldn’t be reached Friday evening for comment.

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