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Democratic Leaders Prepare for Possible LePage Budget Curtailment
11/28/2012   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Maine Gov. Paul LePage says he's considering an order to make immediate cuts in state spending by some $35 million, a response to revenue projections that have fallen short of expectations. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, who now have majority control, say they had not been consulted, and are surprised by the news, which comes just a week before the newly-elected Legislature is scheduled to convene. A.J. Higgins has more.

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Democratic Leaders Prepare for Possible LePage Bud
Originally Aired: 11/28/2012 5:30 PM
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According to state revenue forecasters, Maine will likely lose $160 million in tax collections over the next 30 months, because of weaker corporate earnings and fewer purchases by Maine consumers.  About $35 million of those losses, says Associate Commissioner of Tax Policy Michael Allen, will have to be absorbed in the budget cycle that ends in June.

"Your head can explode if you try to take into account all this stuff," Allen says. "It's unfortunate that the administration and the Legislature are going to have to go with this forecast."

The LePage administration is signaling that it may act on the shortfall immediately.  Sawin Millett is the commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

"The message is that we will need to curtail, or at least I need to use my statutory authority once the numbers  are settled  today, to officially notify the governor, the presiding officers, and the majority and minority leaders that we are in a posture of having to curtail FY '13 revenues and expenditures to stay within this new forecast," Millett says.

Millett says the governor's curtailment order would cut spending equitably across all lines. Those cuts would be included in a bill that would be submitted in January in tandem with the administration's expected supplemental budget request. The Legislature - now under Democratic control - would then have to act on the spending cuts to make them a permanent part of the budget.

Upon hearing news of the potential LePage curtailment from the State House press corps, Senate President-Elect Justin Alfond, A Democrat from Portland, said he was astonished that no one from the governor's office had given leadership any advance notice.

"My reaction is, first, I'm surprised by the governor not reaching out to us," Alfond says. "No one from the governor's office has reached out to us, and that doesn't feel like the best spirit of cooperation in figuring out how to do this together."

Some Democrats said LePage's decision to issue a curtailment order rather than simply including the $35 million in a supplemental budget request was tantamount to a shot across the bow aimed at Democratic leaders.

But House Speaker-Elect Mark Eves said he and Alfond would prepare a carefully considered response to the administration.  "Our response to this is a measured one, one in which we want to work in a balanced way towards filling the shortfall," Eves says.

Still, Alfond and Eves also say that they would consider pressing a yet-to-be-named Appropriations Committee into action next month if the governor's proposed cuts merit immediate action.

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