AUGUSTA — A minimum-security prison that Gov. Paul LePage emptied without legislative approval could receive another year of funding under a bill considered by the Maine Senate on Tuesday.

The Senate approved a bill Tuesday to provide $5.5 million for the Downeast Correctional Facility starting in June, but a similar bill lacked sufficient support in the House last week. Both chambers must pass the legislation before it can be sent to the governor to sign into law.

The minimum-security prison has long been on the state’s chopping block, while supporters argue that it provides jobs and inmates’ free labor to the surrounding rural community. The prison, with about 150 beds, has an annual state budget of about $5 million.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy ruled last week that LePage lacked authority to close the prison in February, but she stopped short of ordering all of the inmates to be returned. The judge left it up to the Department of Corrections to determine staffing and the number of inmates.

The Republican governor said Monday that he will comply with the court order by adding a “minimal” number of staffers and inmates to the facility through June, when current funding runs out.

David Webbert, a lawyer for laid-off prison workers, said the governor’s plan is too limited.

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