Lawmakers debate governor's proposed $126M spending proposal

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee held its first hearings Tuesday on Gov. Janet Mills' proposal for $126 million in new spending.

The committee began hearing public testimony on the supplemental budget proposal, which will be followed by detailed negotiations to reach a bipartisan deal, the Portland Press Herald reported. Testimony was expected to continue for two weeks.

Sen. Jim Hamper, R-Oxford, the ranking Republican member of the budget-writing committee, said last week that his caucus wants more than the $10 million Gov. Mills has requested for roads and bridges.

Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the committee, said the governor's proposal presents an opportunity for lawmakers to address problems and shortcomings, particularly in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Under the proposal, the state would hire another 20 case workers and 14 state police officers, Gov. Mills said this month. The proposal would add funding for workforce training, education, wastewater treatment and highway improvements, she said.

The supplemental budget requires a two-thirds majority vote for money to be spent before the end of the fiscal year, June 30.