AUGUSTA — Maine lawmakers approved both a bill to fill a gap in the state budget as well as Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to restore the rainy day fund to $60 million, sending the measures Friday to the Republican governor’s desk.

The budget bill is the result of weeks of negotiations between lawmakers who were left to craft a spending plan after LePage chose not to introduce one this year, a move that’s thought to be unprecedented and drew sharp criticism from Democrats.

The measure fixes a $40 million shortfall this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and includes some funding for next year’s budget, including $500,000 for Head Start programs and $9.5 million for schools. The Appropriations Committee continues to work on the remainder of the 2015 budget.

The Democratic-led House and Senate approved the measures Friday with bipartisan support and no debate.

LePage said he will sign his proposal to put $21 million back into the rainy day fund and tell the state treasurer to release the bonds for road and bridge projects that he’s been withholding since lawmakers dipped into the reserve to pay for revenue sharing to the state’s cities and towns.

Democrats have attacked LePage on the bond issue, claiming he was using the rainy day fund as an excuse to delay job-creating projects. But LePage called the decision to use the state’s savings for revenue sharing “irresponsible” and said it put the state at risk for a credit downgrade.


“My plan to replenish the rainy day fund has averted millions of dollars in extra interest fees that hard-working Maine taxpayers would have had to pay, and it will put thousands of Mainers to work,” he said in a statement Friday. “This is what it’s all about: doing the right thing for the people of Maine.”

But the action the governor will take on the budget remains unclear. LePage’s hands-off approach on the supplemental budget process this year followed the Legislature’s passage of the two-year, $6.3 billion spending plan last year despite his objections.

Lawmakers on both sides applauded their ability to come together on the two proposals.

“It was important to shore up the state’s savings account before borrowing money, and although there was some disagreement over the necessity of doing this, we came together and made it happen,” Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton said in a statement. “Everybody wins.”

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