$1 billion transportation budget sent to LePage; 35-year-old ‘mission from God’

I promise not to mention THAT, as long as you click here.

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage is expected to make history today with a pile of line-item vetoes of the biennial state budget. The Legislature sent the $6.7 billion spending plan to LePage at about 8 a.m. Wednesday. Peter Steele, the governor’s communications director, said LePage would submit his line-item vetoes at 8 a.m. today but declined to offer additional details.

Unlike regular vetoes, line-item vetoes in the biennial state budget, LD 1019, focus on reductions to individual spending initiatives. LePage has said they could number in the hundreds. Each one needs an individual vote and roll call. In the House, I estimate that a typical roll call can be accomplished in an absolute minimum of 2 minutes, and that’s with no debate. Then each measure needs to go to the Senate. You do the math.

Each vote requires a simple majority to override a veto, which given the Democratic majority in the House and agreement for the most part in the Senate, means the line-item vetoes are not likely to hold. LePage knows as much; he said Wednesday that his intention is to clog up the legislative process.

Meanwhile, the Legislature continues to plow through an extremely dense schedule of bills (more on that below), including some of the most major and interesting of the session. Stay tuned to the Daily Brief and bangordailynews.com. We’re in the midst of a wild ride. — Christopher Cousins

Legislature spends another billion

The biennial state budget, which maybe you’ve heard of, has a lesser-known stepsister and her name is the Highway Fund. While most of the focus has been on the General Fund budget, lawmakers on the Transportation Committee have been toiling away for months on funding for the state’s transportation infrastructure.

And while tax collection overall is rising due to the improving economy, revenue from the fuel tax, which funds about two-thirds of the Highway Fund, has been on the decline for years as automobiles have become more efficient. According to a press release from House Democrats, the Maine Department of Transportation estimates that the Highway Fund budget falls about $119 million short of covering basic road and bridge maintenance over the next three years. And there is no money in the budget for capital projects, which could be the subject of a transportation bond which the Legislature could decide on in the coming days.

The transportation budget, LD 1080, passed 143-4 in the House and unanimously in the Senate, has been sent to Gov. Paul LePage for consideration. — Christopher Cousins

Legislation information

Lawmakers in the House and Senate were in their seats for most of Wednesday — and the Senate went deep into the evening — voting on a range of bills. Here are a few highlights:

  • LD 83, a bill that would have required written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian for an abortion, failed 18-17 in the Senate and 77-67 on Wednesday in the House. Current law requires minors to receive permission from their parent or guardians, or a qualified adult such as a counselor, doctor or clergy member. (CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly summarized current law)
  • The Senate overrode two vetoes on Wednesday, which now go to the House. They were LD 649, which calls for the development of a strategy to extend dental, hearing and vision care for children, and LD 255, a bill that restricts activities on mud flats in an effort to preserve shellfish for the state’s marine economy. Both vetoes now go to the House for consideration.
  • A so-called right-to-die bill has fallen to a narrow defeat after the House and Senate voted in opposite directions. LD 1270 would have allowed doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients with a range of caveats. The one-vote tally against the bill in the Senate on Monday then went to the House, which supported the bill 76-70. The disagreement led to another Senate vote, which again rejected the bill 18-17 on Wednesday. Similar versions of the bill have been attempted more than once in recent years but this is the closest it has ever come to passage. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

It’s 106 miles to Chicago

Tomorrow marks the 35th anniversary of, in my opinion (you’re entitled to your own opinion, even if it happens to be wrong), the best movie ever made: The Blues Brothers.

“The BLUES BROTHERS!? They still owe you money, fool.” Sorry, I could quote this movie all day. And I’m sure I will.

I must have seen it 100 times and every time it’s on TV, I’ll watch it again. And again. And again.

Among its long list of virtues is the rhythm-and-blues soundtrack, including Jake and Elwood’s (actors who can sing!) classic performances, such as this one. Starring in the film are also James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles John Lee Hooker and the Brothers’ all-star backup band.

“What kind of music do you usually have here?” “Oh we have both kinds, country AND western.”

As far as I know, the movie still holds the record for most cars destroyed and it’s been identified by THE VATICAN as one of the best Catholic movies of all time.

“Boys, you need to learn not to talk to nuns that way.”

If you haven’t seen this movie, do it now.

“Disco pants and haircuts! … This place has EVERYTHING.”

I mean really, you won’t regret it.

“Who IS that girl?”

Even if you’ve seen it before.

“We’re on a mission from God.”

OK, I’ll stop now. — Christopher Cousins

(“Bring me four fried chickens, and a Coke.” “And some dry white toast, please.”)





Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.