Gov. Janet Mills on Friday signed into law a two-year, nearly $10 billion budget jammed through by fellow Democrats that will keep government services rolling — and possibly avert a shutdown — in the new fiscal year.
Mills said she was unwilling to take a chance of Republicans using the threat of a shutdown as a bargaining tactic.
"I would have preferred to sign a budget that has bipartisan support, but the possibility of a government shutdown – which would be extremely harmful to Maine people – is something I cannot accept," she said in a statement.
Lawmakers adjourned late Thursday so the budget can go into effect on July 1, the start of the fiscal year. Mills signed a proclamation Friday calling them back to work in a special session starting Wednesday.
She insisted that the current budget that contains no new programs is not the final word. There will be a supplemental budget in which new programs and spending priorities will be discussed.
"I recognize that tensions are high, but there is still a lot of work left to do, with room — I believe — for compromise. I urge Democrats and Republicans to reset and to begin anew the work of negotiating their priorities during the next round of budget discussions," she said.
Democrats, who hold majorities in both legislative chambers, pushed through a no-frills budget on party-line votes over forceful GOP objections on Thursday.
The timing allowed the budget to go into effect 90 days later on July 1 with simple majority votes. Lawmakers would've had to approve the budget with a two-thirds majority, a steeper hurdle, if they'd waited.
It was the second time in Mills' tenure that Democrats have used the maneuver of adopting a majority vote, adjourning the Legislature, and then resuming a special session.
Republicans were incensed and criticized Democrats. Several of them said they were negotiating in good faith to reduce income taxes on lower- and middle-income Mainers.