Maine House GOP leader: Special budget panel ‘doomed to fail’
The committee that is supposed to find a path out of the budget impasse in Augusta is “too little, too late,” according to House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, who said the panel is “doomed to fail.”
The six-member conference committee convened Tuesday with the ambitious goal of finding a budget compromise in time for the Legislature to enact it and send it to Gov. Paul LePage by Friday afternoon. That’s a goal the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee worked toward for more than five months until negotiations fell apart two weeks ago and the committee voted out split recommendations that have no chance of passage in the full Legislature.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, and Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, appointed themselves to the committee along with four others. Under conference committee rules, whatever compromise is reached needs the support of at least two senators and two House members. The budget that goes to the full Legislature can’t be amended on the floor. If the up-or-down votes fail, the conference committee reconvenes and starts all over again.
Because any budget deal would have to be enacted as an emergency bill requiring two-thirds support in both chambers, there is no way to budget enactment without the votes of at least 20 House Republicans if all six independents vote with the Democrats. And the Democrats have their own potential problems: 52 of them pledged a couple of weeks ago that they won’t support any budget that doesn’t increase the state’s share of public education to 55 percent of the total cost and which doesn’t identify an ongoing funding source for the increased spending.
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