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State budget negotiations still far apart – June 16, 2017

There has been movement but no settlement yet on funding for schools in the biennial budget, with Senate Republicans and Democrats moving closer together, but House Republicans still holding out for a much lower number.

Democrats now are asking for $200 million in state aid for schools over the biennium and Senate Republicans are looking to add to their original offer of $110 million by tapping into all or part of $65 million in potentially available funds. If the full amount is used, those two offers are only $25 million apart.

House Republicans have moved from offering $30 million to $50 million, but there is no easy compromise in sight.

The latest offers were discussed at a Thursday meeting of the special 6-member Committee of Conference, made up of Senate President Michael Thibodeau, House Speaker Sara Gideon and four members of the Appropriations Committee. The committee was created when the Appropriations Committee could not reach a compromise.

Speaker Gideon told those gathered the committee had missed a key deadline to come to an agreement and get a budget out in time to avoid a state shutdown. “We have passed that deadline and we have no agreement in site,” she said.

The committee plans to continue its work this weekend. The schedule is very tight because it needs to include the 10 days Gov. LePage has under law to decide whether he will veto what is ultimately passed. A budget must be in place by June 30.

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