Maine Budget Talks Go Down to the Wire to Avert Partial Shutdown

As thousands of tourists travel to Maine for the Fourth of July weekend, the state government is on the brink of shutting down.

Governor Paul LePage and lawmakers are battling over the budget, and the deadline to avert a government shutdown is Friday at midnight.

Legislative leaders were able to come to a bi-partisan, $7.1 billion, two-year deal Thursday night, and worked to pass it through the House and Senate Friday.

But LePage said he needs time to review that budget, and even if it arrives on his desk before the deadline, he doesn’t plan to sign or veto it before the deadline.

"This budget that they have, has no prayer," said Gov. LePage. "If they’re hell-bent on bringing this budget down, then we will shut down."

A government shut down has the potential to impact everything from police to state parks during the busy tourism season.

Friday night, Gov. LePage signed a proclamation declaring a civil emergency, as well as an executive order that directs state officials on the necessary steps to shut down the government, effective at 12:01 a.m.

Gov. LePage said the order would keep state parks, law enforcement, jails, and psychiatric hospitals running. But everything from courthouses to DMV’s would likely close, leaving thousands of state workers without pay.

"It means I struggle to pay my bills," said state worker Rebecca Burns, one of several protesters lining state house hallways Friday morning.

The budget talks have come down to the wire because of conflicts over education funding. Republicans and Democrats were at odds over a 3 percent tax surcharge on top income earners to support schools, as passed in a ballot initiative last November.

A budget compromise added education funding, got rid of the 3 percent tax, and raised the lodging tax.

"There will not be a signature on anything that increases taxes," said Gov. LePage. "You can’t come down here and put a gun to my head and say you sign it, or you take the shut down."

This would be the first government shut down in Maine since 1991.

Contact Us