Maine Government Partially Shuts Down After Budget Talks Reach Stalemate

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Maine's government has partially shut down after the governor and lawmakers failed to agree on a state budget.

Gov. Paul LePage and lawmakers battled over the budget Friday, hoping to avert a crisis by reaching a deal before the midnight deadline. The fiscal year, however, ended without a budget in place, leading to the state's first government shutdown since 1991.

Saturday morning, dozens of union members and state employees marched and chanted outside the Maine State House saying the government shutdown is the fault of LePage and Republican lawmakers.

Marchers carried signs saying "Shame" and "Do your job so I can do mine."

The shutdown will continue until the state agrees on a spending plan. Lawmakers say they will work through the weekend to try to make that happen.

The full effects of the shutdown haven't been felt by many yet because it's the weekend. Essential services such as law enforcement will remain in place while lawmakers work on the budget.

The Republican LePage had blamed Democratic lawmakers for forcing the shutdown.

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 needed time to review that budget, and even if it arrived on his desk before the deadline, he said he didn't plan to sign or veto it before the deadline.

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

Instead, 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. on June 1.

According to the governor's office, the order keeps 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 went to the deadline 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."

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