AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - In Augusta on Friday, the buzz was all about the budget---and whether there could be a shutdown of state government.
Governor LePage will apparently take this weekend to finish looking over the proposed two-year state budget and is expected to issue his veto Monday or Tuesday, which is the deadline for him to act. The Governor has made it clear he does not support the $178 million in tax increases in the budget passed by the Legislature.
Once a veto is issued, the Legislature will have to decide whether to override the veto and pass the budget into law. If they don't, there would be just four days left in which to pass a new budget. If lawmakers and the Governor are not able to pass a budget by the end of the month, state government will have no money to operate and would need to shut down July 1.
On Thursday, the Governor announced his own plan--- pass a temporary, sixty-day budget, similar to Congressional "continuing resolutions", to give him time to work out a deal with the Democrats.
But Attorney General Janet Mills says that would be unconstitutional. Mills told NEWS CENTER On Friday "Five different attorneys general have dealt with this issue over twenty years. They've all said, Republican and Democrat, they've all said you can't do this."
But the Governor's chief legal counsel Michael Cianchette disagrees. Cianchette says the Constitution does allow for a temporary budget. "when the legislature acts and the governor signs, the law can change," says Cianchette. "So she's correct insofar as what's currently on the books. But if the Legislature has interest in changing it can happen."
With that doubt over the legality of the budget extension idea, legislators will convene Wednesday to vote on the veto. When the budget passed last week, it barely received the needed two-thirds majority vote.
That included more than 20 Republicans in the House and 5 in the Senate. Budget supporters will need to keep nearly all those votes if they are going to override the veto. Previous legislatures have gone to the brink with budget votes, but they have always passed in time - except for 1991. That year, a battle over workers compensation costs led to a budget impasse and a three week shutdown of state government.