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Maine governor mulls curtailment order

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- Maine's finance commissioner on Monday recommended that Gov. Paul LePage issue a curtailment order as soon as possible to cut spending by more $35 million because of weaker-than-expected revenue in the current fiscal year. The governor said he was reviewing his options.

Finance Commissioner Sawin Millett issued his recommendation on Monday upon receipt of a formal report by the Revenue Forecasting Committee, which indicated state expenditures exceed anticipated funds. The formal letter to the governor, with copies to legislative leaders, was required by law.

The Forecasting Committee's figures showed revenues lagging behind estimates by $35.5 million this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and by $128 million during the two-year budget cycle, which starts next July 1.

The governor could issue an order to temporarily curtail spending to ensure the budget remains in the black. But no decision had been made as of Monday, said Adrienne Bennett, the governor's spokeswoman.

"Action must be taken to achieve a balanced budget, which the Constitution requires. I have begun to assess the options regarding the best approach to reduce spending and I will do so in a thoughtful and meaningful way," the governor said in a statement.

Democratic leaders said they're ready to work with the governor on both fixing the budget and strengthening the state's economy. "The fact is Maine, for the last two years, has been the only state in New England whose economy isn't growing and the loss of revenue reflects this," said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond.

Finance officials said the biggest contributors to the red ink were under-performance of individual and corporate income taxes and sales and use taxes, all the result of a weak economy.

Curtailment orders are a common way of dealing with short-term budget problems. The Baldacci administration issued more than $180 million in curtailments from 2008 to 2010, Bennett said.