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Lawmakers Start Session by Slashing 

The Maine Legislature’s budget-review panel has made some progress in addressing the state’s $438 million shortfall. On the first day of the new session, the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill to make $30 million in long-term, structural spending reductions. The savings include restructuring the state debt service and making the drunk driver rehabilitation program self sufficient. Appropriations is scheduled on Thursday to review recommended cuts in several natural resources departments, and in the business regulation and labor departments. Committees are also getting back to work on a number of non-budget bills addressing issues from ethanol fuels to improving high school graduation rates.