With no name calling, no hostage taking, no threats to shut down the government, the Maine Legislature passed a budget Friday. It was so quiet, you might have missed it.

The $7.9 billion budget agreement ping-ponged back and forth between the House and Senate, getting the necessary votes in each chamber, including the all-important two-thirds supermajorities needed to keep the government in business when the current budget expires June 30. The new budget went to Gov. Mills, who – without suspense – signed it Monday afternoon.

What is there to say about such a boring event? After all, everyone is just doing their jobs.

First, that it is a good budget.

It puts resources into health care, education and local property tax relief, responding to the priorities voters expressed during the 2018 election. It does this without raising taxes, keeping a commitment Mills made in her campaign. It sets the course for state government for the two-year period that begins July 1, to the extent that it’s possible to see that far into the future in an uncertain world.

But what’s more impressive is the process that produced the budget. Even though the amount spent was criticized by Republican lawmakers, who will find plenty in it to run against in 2020, this budget was the result of bipartisan compromise, supported by a majority of the Republicans on the Appropriations Committee.


Republican leadership deserves credit for making their best case in the negotiations and accepting the result rather than using every ounce of leverage that would have been available to them had they threatened to shut down the government. Democrats also deserve credit for not using their majorities in both houses to push through a majority budget in April that would have not required any Republican votes.

Even though both sides walked away with something less than they might have preferred, they have built a foundation of mutual trust that they will likely have to draw on if there is a recession or some other crisis that will require cooperation.

At least, we hope so. The 2011 budget, the first under then-Gov. Paul LePage, passed when there were Republican majorities in both houses and had the same kind of bipartisan support even though it promoted major Republican policy goals of cutting taxes and eligibility for social services. The next time LePage proposed a budget, however, Democrats controlled the Legislature and he was never willing to work with them, making the next three budgets rocky affairs.

It’s too soon to say whether this budget blazes the trail for a cooperative relationship between the parties, or if it will be remembered as a momentary pause in the dysfunction that characterized the LePage era. But it’s not to soon to say that this is a positive first step that should give Maine people reason to hope.


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