- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Republicans in the state House have blocked a proposed $18 million spending package.

The measure failed Tuesday night to get the 102 votes needed in the Democratic-controlled House to override an expected veto from Republican Gov. Paul LePage. It was a different matter in the Republican-controlled Senate, which an hour before had passed the measure in an initial 31-4 vote.

Shortly before the Senate vote, LePage swore in Democratic Sen.-elect Susan Deschambault to office. LePage had canceled the newly elected senator’s swearing-in ceremony Friday to punish Democrats who opposed his nomination for a state post. The Senate responded by refusing to take any votes until Deschambault was seated.

The spending plan included $7 million for pay raises for state law enforcement officers, $4 million to increase reimbursement rates for home-based and community-based nurses and health aides and $2.5 million for county jails. The plan also would have transferred $44.5 million in surplus revenue to a rainy day fund.

House Republicans oppose any new spending and want to transfer $55.5 million to the rainy day fund. Only two Republicans voted with the Democrats in support of the spending measure. The vote fell 20 votes short of a two-thirds majority.

Rep. Tom Winsor, of Norway, one of four Republicans on the Appropriations Committee who opposed the plan, said the state needs to be fiscally responsible given the “uncertainties” of a referendum question on the November ballot that would raise the minimum wage in Maine from to $12 an hour.

He said the state is less than halfway through a two-year budget that increases spending by $315 million.

“We should be careful about taking on additional spending,” he said.

The budget package was less than what the Democrats had initially wanted. Democrats had proposed spending about $44 million to fund about half of the 50-plus funding requests submitted by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, a Democrat from Skowhegan, listed all the bills in the final spending package that had been supported or sponsored by Republicans.

“Move on and send a message to the state of Maine that we can work together,” he told Republicans.

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