(AUGUSTA, ME) — On just the fourth day of the legislature meeting as a whole, Democrats have already given up on the idea of working together with Republicans and Independents on a two-year budget.
In what may have been the shortest regular session in the history of the State Legislature—four days—Republicans’ plan to have a two-thirds budget received support from members of both parties while the remainder of the Democrats lined up behind their leaders without any bipartisan support but with enough votes to secure passage of the bill.
In what seemed to be a contest to utter the word “shutdown” as many times as possible, even when no one outside of the Democratic Party has ever proposed or suggested the idea, members of the majority party gave speech after speech on the Senate floor trying to justify their decision to abandon bipartisanship at the very beginning of budget negotiations. They then ignored the rules of the Legislature and voted to force an $8.3 billion budget into law without respecting the voice of more than a half-million Maine people.
Democratic leaders then adjourned the Legislature for this session after having completed just Four days of work.
All of this procedural maneuvering was designed to force a two-year budget into law with a majority vote, rather than the usual two-thirds, something that has only happened twice before in at least the last seventy years.
Both parties had been moving forward with a bipartisan framework for a budget including a target date of May 27 to finish their work, when Democrats abruptly informed Republicans that they intended to abandon negotiations and force through their own version of the budget.
On March 25, Democrats gave Republican members of the Appropriations Committee their two-page budget proposal and forty minutes later, without a public hearing, passed the measure.
These moves callously ignore the work of legislative committees that had yet to offer their recommendations to the Appropriations Committee and the input of staff at state agencies that had yet to offer their own recommendations.
Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake: “This was done without deliberation, negotiation, or collaboration. Taking this approach and silencing the voices of more than a half-million Mainers is simply wrong. This is why this tactic is almost never used, and why, when it is used, it does great harm to the legislative process indefinitely.”
Assistant Senate Republican Leader Matt Pouliot: “Just because the majority can, does not mean it should, and not respecting the opinions of the minority and their constituents is not the way to govern fairly and appropriately.”