The ink is drying on Maine’s $1.2 billion supplemental budget, but lawmakers still have to make one more round of difficult spending decisions before their job is done.

That work begins Friday, when it could become clear which bills passed by the 130th Legislature will be implemented and which will die on the appropriations table for a lack of funding.

The more than 200 bills that were approved by the Legislature would cost a combined $1.6 billion to implement and are competing for a slice of the $12 million left unallocated in the supplemental budget signed by Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday.

The Legislature’s budget-writing committee is expected to vote Friday morning on funding recommendations that will be sent to the Senate for enactment when lawmakers reconvene Monday for what is expected to be the last day of the session.

Among the bills on the special appropriations table are two that would benefit Wabanaki tribes in Maine and another that would support more legal services for defendants who cannot afford an attorney. And there are scores of more obscure bills that lawmakers are urging the committee to pay for, from mandating insurance coverage for postpartum health care to creating a Maine Climate Corps composed of volunteers leading local environmental protection efforts.

All four party caucuses – House and Senate Democrats and House and Senate Republicans – will receive $3 million to spend and have been meeting privately to set priorities for the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee to consider. Each of the Legislature’s joint standing committees also has submitted its funding priorities for consideration.



As with the overall two-year budget, the chairs and lead members of the appropriations committee are doing most of their negotiating in private, then holding a public session to vote on specific elements once an agreement is reached.

Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, who co-chairs the budget-writing committee, said strong revenue projections at least through next summer mean lawmakers have more money than usual to fund priorities.

“Part of the grand budget bargain is always what we’re going to do with the table,” Breen said. “Some years when revenues are low, we don’t have a table.”

One item being closely watched is a $1.2 million proposal to establish a limited public defenders office, among other things. Maine is the only state that does not have a public defenders office to represent defendants who cannot afford a lawyer. Instead, Maine contracts with private attorneys – a program overseen by the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine is suing the commission for failing to meet its constitutional obligations to ensure everyone charged with a crime has access to an attorney.


Breen said Republicans and Democrats in both chambers recognize the importance of funding those services and are discussing ways to share the costs.

“We’re trying to work out a four-way agreement on that,” Breen said Wednesday. “We’re not quite there.”


Two bills aimed at helping Maine tribes also are on the table. Breen wasn’t sure what would happen to those.

So far, members of the party caucuses are not saying much about which bills they’re expected to fund.

Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, who co-chairs the budget-writing committee, declined to speak with a reporter on her way into the House chamber on Wednesday, as did Assistant Majority Leader Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, when asked about the status of the tribal rights bills she sponsored.


One of the most high-profile bills on the table is L.D. 1626, which would restore sovereignty to Maine tribes, putting them on par with the nation’s 570 other federally recognized tribes. Maine tribes are the only ones in the nation subject to a pair of 1980 settlement agreements that allow the state to treat them more like municipalities than sovereign nations. Tribes in other states generally answer directly to the federal government.

That bill would result in a loss of sales and income taxes from the tribes totaling $44,650 in the first year, $152,000 in the second and $201,400 in the third year. It is opposed by Mills, who is expected to veto it. And initial votes in both chambers indicate lawmakers do not have enough votes to override it.

It’s not clear if the anticipated veto will factor into the funding decisions. Several lawmakers said this week they want to send the bill to the governor’s desk and then, if she issues a veto, to try to win more votes to override it. It takes two-thirds of the Legislature to override a veto.

Mills has supported a more limited proposal that, among other things, would legalize sports gambling in Maine and give tribes the exclusive rights to offer mobile sports betting to the tribes. Racetracks and casinos would be allowed to offer in-person sports betting only.

While the bill would reduce tax revenues from the tribes, it also is expected to result in a net increase of $1.4 million in state revenues.



Republicans also were quiet about their priorities, with Senate Republicans voting twice against extending the session – a move that could have effectively killed the entire table. They eventually relented, agreeing to extend the session by one day, rather than two, to allow staff to catch up on paperwork.

Rep. Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, who serves on the appropriations committee, said her party was still negotiating over which bills to fund.

“I don’t think we’re talking (publicly) about it yet,” Arata said Wednesday.

Spokespersons for Senate Republicans did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon. And a spokesperson for House Republicans said Thursday that he had no additional information to share.

The bills awaiting funding include those that were carried over from last year’s session, with costs ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to tens of millions. The bills represent a wide range in health care, education, social services, housing assistance and workforce development.

It’s likely that some of the bills approved by the appropriations committee would need to be amended to match any decisions to grant partial funding – something that would require additional votes in each chamber before the bills were sent to Mills.

Breen said the $12 million of funding available represents good opportunities for each caucus.

“There’s some good stuff from all four caucuses that should see the light of day,” she said.

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