AUGUSTA — The House of Representatives could vote as soon as today on a second supplemental budget to get the state through this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee voted unanimously last week in favor of the $65 million budget, which is necessary mostly to close budget gaps in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Committee members removed or reduced the impact of the two most controversial measures in the budget proposed by Gov. Paul LePage.

LePage proposed taking $777,738 from a health insurance fund for retired firefighters and law enforcement officers to help balance the budget. The committee opted instead to use $900,000 in personnel savings from the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

Also, the committee reduced the amount to be taken from the state employee health insurance fund, from $4.3 million to $2.6 million. That money will be borrowed and then repaid at the start of the new fiscal year, said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston.

Democrats expressed significant concerns when the budget was proposed, but they are satisfied with the final bill, she said.

“The issues that were there, we were able to resolve in a bipartisan way,” she said.

The committee’s House chairman, Rep. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, credited Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, with proposing two key compromises that helped gain support for the bill.

Martin worked with the DHHS to correct billing mistakes in the department, producing $1.2 million in savings. He also suggested borrowing, rather than taking, money from the state employee health insurance fund.

The budget also makes use of $469,000 from a lawsuit settlement with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

Democrats and Republicans say they expect the budget to be adopted without significant debate. “I’m not anticipating any amendments,” Flood said.

Earlier this year, the Legislature gave two-thirds approval to the first supplemental budget, which allocated $70 million to hospitals and $77 million to the state’s Medicaid program. The budget that will be voted on this week also needs two-thirds approval.

The Appropriations Committee is still working on the $6.1 billion state budget for the two years that start July 1, which includes major changes to the state retirement system, tax cuts and welfare reform. The committee hopes to have a revised version of the bill ready by mid-May.

 

Susan Cover — 620-7015

[email protected]

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