DISGRACE: In Surprise Vote, Dems Raid Rainy Day, Tax Relief Funds
Dems wait for GOP colleagues to go home before voting out controversial bill
AUGUSTA – In an unprecedented move by majority lawmakers Monday night, the Democratic members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee voted “Ought to Pass” on a $40 million budget proposal without a single Republican present.
Democrats had met with their Republican colleagues on the budget committee earlier in the evening, agreeing to take the matter up during Tuesday afternoon’s work session. All Republican appropriators left the State House with that agreement. Democrats then assembled in the committee room and voted out the budget bill in a one-party vote.
Senate Chairwoman Dawn Hill (D-Cape Neddick) even said she was “disappointed” that Republicans did not join Democrats for the vote, though both parties had agreed to meet tomorrow.
“I am absolutely stunned by this brazen move by the Democrats,” said Lead House Republican appropriator Rep. Kathy Chase (R-Wells), reached on her cell phone while driving home from Augusta. “I left the State House with the understanding that we would not vote on the measure until tomorrow afternoon.”
It remains unclear why Democrats took the surprise vote.
“This is the kind of thing you see in Chicago, not Maine,” said Senate Republican Leader Michael Thibodeau of Winterport. “I have never seen anything like this in my years in the Maine Legislature.”
The after-dark surprise comes just days after former Democratic U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell urged lawmakers to take a more collaborative approach to governance.
“This is a slap in the face to the people of Maine,” said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. “They sent us here to do the people’s business in a transparent and grown-up manner, not pull surprise votes and misrepresent the facts to the media.”
The Democratic proposal entails closing a $40 million budget gap by raiding the state’s rainy day fund, as well as the income tax relief fund, and using revenue surpluses. Bond rating agencies and the Governor’s finance chief, Sawin Millett, have warned of a credit downgrade if the legislature raids the rainy day fund.
Video: Republican Leadership Reaction to Secret Vote