Lawmakers Briefed On $35 Million Shortfall 

Thursday in Augusta, members of the 125th legislature’s Appropriations Committee got their last revenue forecast update and the news is not good.State Finance officials presented the committee with the numbers showing state government will have far less money coming in over the next 2 1/2 years. “I think it’s a combination of a weakened economy that we’ve been seeing in the summer and early fall with sales and corporate income tax payments,” Finance Commissioner Sawin Millet said Thursday. “But I think it’s additionally impacted by the uncertainty post-election what congress is going to do on the fiscal cliff issue.”So how much less money? According to state finance officials, the general fund revenues for this fiscal year are expected to be about $35 million lower and for the upcoming two year biennial period, around $125 million less than previously thought.In the state’s highway fund, which is separate, revenues are expected to lag below previous estimates by $20 million through 2015.The governor can choose to issue a curtailment order and ask all agency heads to make cuts to make up for the lost revenue. Democratic lawmakers say there are other options available. “We would like to be able to work as a legislature on a supplemental budget in January and that would be our preference,” said Lewiston Democrat Peggy Rotundo.Either way, Democrats have expressed a willingness to work with the governor and their Republican colleagues to solve the problem. “The last 14 budgets that have been done by the Appropriations Committee, 12 have been unanimous bipartisan budgets,” Rotundo said. “So we have a wonderful track record in appropriations working together and voting out of our committee unanimous bipartisan budgets.”