$ 1 billion in stimulus spending OK; Pine Tree Power veto maintained
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – Democratic Governor Janet Mills on Monday approved nearly $ 1 billion in federal pandemic stimulus spending, but the bill did not get enough backing to go into effect immediately . Lawmakers also backed the governor’s veto on the creation of a consumer-owned electricity utility.
At the end of the legislative session, lawmakers passed the spending plan to boost the state economy and workers after a global pandemic ravaged the state for more than a year.
The Democrat-controlled House and Senate approved the plan on party line votes after Democrats and Republicans failed to narrow their differences.
Mills said she was disappointed that there wasn’t enough bipartisan support to allow money to flow immediately with a two-thirds majority. Instead, the law comes into force 90 days after the legislature adjourned Monday night.
Nonetheless, the governor described one-time spending as “possibly the most transformational proposition of our lives.”
The law allows $ 983 million in federal money to flow into the state for economic recovery and skills training, as well as child care and education, broadband and affordable housing, and d ‘other areas.
It represents “a historic investment in Maine businesses and working families who have experienced deep hardship and extraordinary tragedy throughout this pandemic,” said Senate Speaker Troy Jackson.
Members of both parties expressed disappointment at the lack of bipartisan support. “Maine is best served when the two sides work together to develop budget proposals that can attract broad support,” said Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, Republican House leader.
In another move, lawmakers fell well below the two-thirds threshold needed to override the governor’s veto on a bill to buy out Central Maine Power and Versant Power and replace them with a consumer-owned utility. .
Critics were angry at the botched deployment of a CMP billing system, slow response to power outages, high electricity rates and the controversial utility corridor that would serve as a conduit for Canadian hydropower .
Had it been approved, the proposal would have been sent to voters in the state who would have had the final say in the November ballot.
But voters will likely get what they want, despite Monday’s result. A coalition called Our Power has pledged to seek enough signatures to force a referendum vote on the proposal next year.
On federal stimulus funding, negotiators on both sides agreed on much of the proposal to spend the money from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was approved by Congress.
But there were a handful of sticking points for Republicans. One of them was the demand for funding of $ 20 million out of $ 50 million for affordable housing for companies with agreements with unions.
Jeff Timberlake, the Republican leader in the Senate, suggested the money was intended for “special interests” and said there should be no conditions attached to funding affordable housing.
The working agreements for the project were included due to federal guidelines for states using stimulus funding, said Senator Cathy Breen, Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee.