AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s objections to the bipartisan supplemental budget bill that closes a more than $30 million revenue gap in the current biennium convinced very few Republicans that it’s a bad plan.
With no debate, only 12 members in the House and no members of the Senate voted to sustain LePage’s veto of the bill Thursday morning. That means the bill becomes law, effectively balancing the state’s books for the time being.
If state revenues don’t meet expectations or some departments spend significantly over their budgeted amounts between now and June 2015, it is conceivable that lawmakers will have to return and craft another budget — or that incoming lawmakers in the next Legislature will be greeted with a shortfall.
LePage is the first governor in recent Maine history to sit out the process of developing a supplemental budget. Lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee worked on it for months, culminating in a unanimous recommendation last month that found strong support in the Legislature.
Among the items in the budget that attracted sweeping bipartisan support were provisions for more funding for nursing homes and to reduce waitlists for developmentally disabled people. LePage’s chief objection to the budget bill was a provision that permanently delays Medicaid payments to service providers by up to 12 days, which will save an estimated $20 million in the current biennium.
House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said there were problems with the bill but that he and most other Republicans agreed that the flaws weren’t significant enough to scuttle it.
“While I share Gov. LePage’s concerns with the budget’s funding mechanism, I believe there is more good than bad in this bill,” Fredette said in a written statement. “Republicans have fought for months to ensure that our nursing homes and waitlists for disabled Mainers are funded, and the budget accomplishes that by using funding that would have gone to able-bodied adults under Medicaid expansion. That’s a solid step toward resetting the priorities of our welfare system.”
Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York, co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, said she was pleased most lawmakers supported the budget despite LePage’s “threats and tantrums.”
“This is a good, bipartisan budget and I am proud of my fellow lawmakers for standing by their votes and standing up for Maine people,” said Hill.