A legislative panel has rejected a bill that would have put a temporary halt to cuts at the University of Maine System. The measure was turned down 6-4 today by the Legislative Council, which decides what bills will be allowed into the session.
The emergency bill was introduced by Rep. Ben Chipman, a Portland independent, after several days of outcry from University of Southern Maine students and staff over $14 million in cuts to faculty and programs.
"There's a crisis right now in our public university system," Chipman told colleagues. "The students don't know what they can count on in the fall - they don't know what's going to be there tomorrow or not."
University officials say the cuts are part of an effort to close a $36 million shortfall in the seven-campus system. Chipman said his bill would allow time to convene a study group to look at the financial structure of the system to see if there's a way to distribute funding in the system more equitably.
But many members of the panel were reluctant to involve the Legislature in the UMaine system's budget process.
"I think there's a recognition that there's some changes afoot," said House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, of Newport. "I'm inclined to not want to really impose, I think, the Legislature into this process at this point in time."
A.J. Higgins contributed reporting to this story.