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Maine's Government Remains Closed After Gov. LePage Refuses To Sign Budget Bill


Maine and New Jersey have shut down their governments except for essential services. Both shutdowns are in their third day while lawmakers try to work out their differences and pass budgets. In New Jersey, the situation includes some drama around Governor Chris Christie. He and his family were photographed on a state beach he had closed. We'll have more on that in a moment. First, here's Steve Mistler of Maine Public Radio.

STEVE MISTLER, BYLINE: It's Maine's first government shutdown in 27 years, but the full effects have been eased somewhat by the timing of the July Fourth holiday and the weekend. State parks are open, and some services are still available, but thousands of furloughed state employees are getting increasingly angry and nervous.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Do your job. Do your job.

MISTLER: Allison Perkins was among the hundreds of state workers who came to the state house Monday to demand the legislature pass a budget. Perkins, a mother of two, works at the state health agency providing benefits to needy Mainers. Her next paycheck is due Wednesday, but she's not sure when she'll get one after that.

ALLISON PERKINS: No, that's the biggest worry, you know - is our own, you know, being able to make ends meet. If we don't get paid again this month, you know, it's very possible that I may have to apply for those same services.

MISTLER: The House GOP and the governor are receiving the brunt of the outrage here. The legislators blocked passage of the budget and forced the shutdown on Saturday. Perkins is especially mad at Chad Grignon, the Republican House member who represents her.

PERKINS: Our House representative looked me in the eye before we got to Friday and said that he would do everything in his power to not have a shutdown. And he voted that budget out. So if he's listening, I see you. I see you.

MISTLER: And since the shutdown, House Republicans have added new demands on behalf of Governor Paul LePage. The governor has refused to sign a budget that includes a tax increase, and this one bumps up the lodging tax. So even if this bill eventually passes, he's vowed not to act until after the 10 days he's allowed under law.

The governor's shifting demands have frustrated Democrats and the Republican-controlled Senate. The Senate GOP hoped the budget stalemate was over last week after they extracted a major concession from the Democratic-controlled House. But that wasn't enough for LePage, whose penchant for controversy and torching opponents has defined his two terms in office. And all of this infighting has left state workers like Polly Campbell feeling caught in the middle.

POLLY CAMPBELL: Well, it's made me feel as if I don't matter, that I'm worthless. And I know that that's not true.

MISTLER: LePage has tried to pin the blame on the legislature. On Sunday, he released the video slamming Democrats and urging them to get back to work. He did so wearing a polo shirt and shorts. As a legislature met today to try and reopen state government, the governor said he's heading out of town for at least a week. For NPR News, I'm Steve Mistler in Augusta, Maine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Journalist Steve Mistler is MPBN's chief political correspondent and statehouse bureau chief, specializing in the coverage of politics and state government.