AUGUSTA — A bill to correct a one-word clerical error potentially worth close to $38 million for an energy-efficiency program is heading to Gov. Paul LePage.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted unanimously Thursday to enact the proposal, but the governor may still veto it.

The bill would reinsert what has become known as “the missing ‘and'” in a law that funds an Efficiency Maine program, but despite the easy fix and bipartisan support, the proposal has become entangled in politics.

The issue began in 2013, when the Legislature passed a massive energy bill that authorized a surcharge on electricity ratepayers. The funds were used to finance a program that subsidized energy-efficient light bulbs and helped more than 3,000 businesses convert to energy-saving equipment last year.

But a single word – “and” – was inadvertently left out of the bill’s language. The Maine Public Utilities Commission voted in March to interpret the language literally, meaning program funding would be capped at $22 million rather than the $59 million envisioned by the Legislature.

Now the bill is caught up in a power play between the Legislature and LePage, who opposes the surcharge on ratepayers. LePage has indicated he will likely veto the bill and there is no guarantee that lawmakers will keep the two-thirds majorities required to override him.

If the governor rejects the bill, the focus will shift to the House, which would take the first override vote. That’s also where a separate measure, L.D. 1212, remains parked by Democratic leadership. Sponsored by House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, the bill would create a Cabinet-level energy position within the governor’s office and allow the governor to appoint the executive director of the Efficiency Maine Trust. Fredette, who is at odds with House Democrats and Senate Republicans over state budget negotiations, has accused Democrats of reneging on a promise to move his bill along with the Efficiency Maine fix. Democrats say they haven’t.

Such a deal would leave Democrats without any political leverage if it’s vetoed by LePage, a longtime critic of Efficiency Maine.

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