AUGUSTA — Richard Rosen, Maine’s finance commissioner, has abruptly resigned, Gov. Paul LePage announced Tuesday.

The departure of the state’s top budget officer and key cabinet member comes at a critical stage for the Maine Legislature as six lawmakers convene to try to broker a state budget deal and avoid a state government shutdown. Rosen, a former state senator and co-chair of the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee, is highly regarded by lawmakers. They lauded Rosen’s professionalism and even temper during tough budget negotiations in the past.

Rosen joined LePage’s Cabinet in January 2015. He did not return a call seeking comment.

Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, issued a statement praising Rosen and thanking him for his service to the state.

“Richard’s work has resulted in a better Maine,” Thibodeau said. “(Rosen) is, without question, one of the most respected voices on financial matters at the State House, and his presence will be sorely missed.”

Lawmakers are trying to hammer out an agreement on a approximately $7 billion, 2-year state budget. Republicans and Democrats have been split over whether to repeal a voter-approved 3 percent surcharge on household income over $200,000 intended to provide money for public schools and replace it with another source of school funding.

LePage has said he will veto the budget if it doesn’t limit spending to less than $7 billion and eliminate the 3 percent tax surcharge.

Failure to enact a budget by June 30, the end of the fiscal year, would result in a government shutdown. The final budget would need at least two-thirds support in the House and Senate to be enacted immediately as an emergency bill and to override a veto.

Rosen’s absence will make it more difficult for lawmakers to get accurate financial information about state spending and revenues.

“Very few people are as knowledgeable about budget issues and the legislative process,” Thibodeau said. “Richard’s calm, reasonable approach to financial matters was always greatly valued and appreciated by Republicans, Democrats and independents, alike.”

LePage, who gave no reason for Rosen’s resignation, has appointed David R. Lavway, deputy commissioner of operations at the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, to serve as acting commissioner, according a statement from the governor’s office.

“I thank Richard Rosen for his many years of service to the State of Maine,” said LePage in the statement. “He has been a dedicated public servant to the people of Maine, and I wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Rosen is married to Kimberly Rosen, a Republican state senator representing District 8. The couple previously owned and operated Rosen’s Department Store in Bucksport, which was among the businesses that were shuttered after the Verso Paper Corp. mill was closed in 2014.

Richard Rosen is the third cabinet member to leave the administration in as many months including Jeanne Paquette, who resigned as labor commissioner to work for the University of Southern Maine, and Mary Mayhew, who resigned as commissioner of health and human services and a week later announced she is running for governor as a Republican.

Others who have left the LePage administration include his senior policy adviser on health care, David Sorensen and LePage’s top attorney, Avery Day. Sorensen is a speech writer for the Trump administration and Day returned to private practice.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

[email protected]

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