- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Gov. Paul LePage predicted Tuesday that parts of state government will shut down this weekend because of a lack of a new state budget, but assured tourists that state parks will remain open on the weekend before July Fourth.

The governor added to worries of the first state government shutdown in quarter century with both his unnerving prediction and his declaration that “the future of Maine is worth shutting it down.”

State parks are among essential services to remain in operation regardless of whether there’s a budget agreement, LePage said.

There was a concern about vandalism if there were no park rangers, life guards or other staff on duty in state parks, LePage said. State law enforcement agencies would be exempted from a shutdown, as well, he said.

Under the Maine Constitution, the governor and lawmakers have until Friday evening to adopt and sign a two-year budget into law to avert a state government shutdown.

On Tuesday, there was discussion of bringing a proposal backed by House Republicans to a floor vote. Instead, that never happened and there was more finger pointing and protesters marching through the Statehouse.

A sticking point for budget negotiators is education funding.

Both parties have agreed to Republican demands to eliminate a voter-approved surcharge on wealthy Mainers to better fund education. But they differ over important details, including how much money should be allocated to make up the difference.

House Republicans have been aligned with the GOP governor, who has taken a hard stance on education spending.

Insisting he’s negotiating in good faith, LePage said Tuesday that Democrats “are still demanding more, more, more.” He said he agreed to boost education spending by $125 million “as long as some of our common-sense education reforms are included.”

Senate Republicans and Democrats in both chambers, meanwhile, have accused the governor and House Republicans of refusing to negotiate.

“We are ready to compromise and we are ready to close this budget. This will end when that same consistency and that same dedication to honest negotiations happen from all four caucuses and Governor LePage,” said House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast.

There has been no state government shutdown since 1991, when Republican Gov. John McKernan insisted that lawmakers adopt reforms to the workers’ compensation system. Most of the state government stayed closed for 16 days.

The standoff was resolved when lawmakers agreed to most workers’ compensation reforms and punted the remainder to a specially appointed “blue ribbon commission” whose reforms were later adopted.

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