Gov. Paul LePage addresses an anti-tax rally in Augusta, organized by the group Americans for Prosperity.
Former GOP state Sen. Carol Weston addressed about 60 anti-tax supporters gathered at the Stat House, all of whom are opposed to tax increases included in the compromise budget package.
"You will be bringing home less, you will be paying more in taxes from an ever-smaller paycheck," Weston said. "Why? Because some legislators want government to spend more. Do you agree?"
Weston is state director of Americans for Prosperity, an organization funded by the billionaire Koch brothers that promotes lower taxes and limited government. And those are exactly the two issues that Weston and company say are missing from the tax and spending plan passed by two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.
The bill contains a half-cent increase in the state sales tax and a one percent increase in Maine's food and lodging tax, to generate about $180 million in new revenue. Lawmakers say that money is needed to partially offset LePage's suspension of $200 million in municipal revenue sharing funds.
The budget is now sitting on the governor's desk, and Weston strongly advised the governor on what his next step should be.
"This budget makes us all victims by raising taxes when we are struggling," Weston said. "This budget - it needs a veto. Do you agree?"
LePage, who was also present, offered some assurance: "I'm here to tell you - I will veto that budget," LePage said.
After renewing his pledge to veto the budget, LePage took aim at the nearly 30 Republican lawmakers who voted for the legislative budget compromise, calling them "weak." The governor said Democratic leaders' expressed fears about a state shutdown in the aftermath of a failed veto override effort were simply an attempt to get GOP lawmakers to "cave."
Then, LePage offered an option to Democratic leaders to avoid a shutdown.
"Today, I invite President (Justin) Alfond and Speaker (Mark) Eves to sit down with me and design a continuing resolution for 60 days, so that we can have a short-term budget, and we can sit down and really take a hard look at those areas that are sacred cows."
"That, I think, is something that we don't need to talk about right now," said Sen. Troy Jackson.
Jackson, the assistant democratic senate majority leader, says the governor should be getting the Legislature's budget message loud and clear. And given LePage's opposition to new taxes, Jackson says it's unlikely the majority party would have much to discuss. Jackson predicts a continuing resolution won't be necessary.
"I think the Republicans definitely understand what's at stake here," Jackson said. "No one wants a state shutdown. It's going to be harmful to businesses across this state and taxpayers across this state. And I think that we have the votes to override the governor's veto."
Republican leaders maintained a low profile in the aftermath of Lepage's remarks. GOP Assistant Senate Minority Leader Roger Katz declined comment on LePage's characterization of Republicans who voted for the budget.
Photos: A.J. Higgins