AUGUSTA – Legislative leaders ended the day Thursday without a budget deal – or at least one they were ready to present publicly.

Members of the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee were largely relegated to the sidelines again Thursday as Republican and Democratic leaders met privately to attempt to overcome several key hurdles in the more than $6 billion, two-year budget.

The biggest areas of disagreement have been income tax cuts and welfare reform, particularly changes sought by Republican Gov. Paul LePage to the General Assistance program.

The committee missed a self-imposed Monday deadline, and with each day the window narrows for completing a deal before the fiscal year ends June 30 and a government shutdown begins July 1. That’s because it takes considerable time for staff to craft the final language of the several hundred-page-long budget document plus typically several days for the full Legislature to review, debate and vote on the bill. Finally, LePage has 10 days – not including Sundays – to sign or veto the budget.

Legislative leaders have said they need to send a completed budget to the governor by no later than June 18. LePage has repeatedly threatened to veto the emerging document, meaning any deal will need two-thirds support in both chambers to override a gubernatorial veto.

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