Congressional delays pose problems for Maine

8:26 PM, Jan 2, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Congress may have stepped back from the cliff, but the Maine Legislature still faces uncertainty over federal budget cuts.

In the deal worked out over the past two days, Congress put off decisions on federal spending cuts for another two months. That timing may not help the Legislature. The Appropriations Committee us scheduled to begin budget discussion this week, and will need to pass a new, two-year state budget by June.

Leaders in both parties say many state programs get significant federal funding,. The Department of Health and Human Services, for example, is budgeted to received $1.9 billion in federal funds this year. Legislators say it will be very difficult to plan and pass budget if they don't know how much will be cut from federal programs. The Legislature has less than six months to complete a new budget.

Legislators say that if Congress drags out budget-cutting discussions, it will make the state budget process even more difficult than it is now.

Sen. Roger Katz (R-Augusta) says if the federal debate takes too long, the Legislature may have to pass a budget in June, then come back later in the year and make whatever changes are required. Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland) says the federal process does create a lot of uncertainty fore the Legislature, but he is trying to remain optimistic that Congress will take action in time.


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