BANGOR, Maine (CN) – Worried that Maine Gov. Paul LePage will cause a state government shutdown Saturday, a class of residents who depend on public-assistance programs have asked a federal judge to intervene in the budget-negotiating impasse.
LePage explained Thursday, when the suit against him was being filed, that a shutdown would eliminate all state services but essential ones, such as the state police, prisons and state parks. At press time Friday afternoon, the governor remains committed not to sign the Legislature’s budget.
In their bid for an emergency injunction, seven anonymous residents say a shutdown would suspend several federally funded social-safety programs such as the state’s Medicaid program and food-stamp program, cutting off benefits to the 450,000 Mainers who rely on the services.
“This decision not only is causing and will cause severe and irreparable harm to the Plaintiffs, but it is also unlawful,” the complaint states. “Under federal law, once having opted to participate in federal public assistance programs, the state is legally bound to comply with certain federal requirements, including the timely processing of applications and the timely provision of assistance to eligible persons.”
U.S. District Judge Jon Levy was scheduled to hold a hearing on the motion for a temporary restraining order Friday at 1 p.m., but a docket entry shows that the meeting was abruptly canceled.
A written status report regarding the motion is due on July 14.
LePage, a Republican who rode the 2010 Tea Party wave into the governor’s office, has pledged not to sign any budget from the Democrat-led Legislature that raises taxes in any way.
The state’s fiscal year ended June 30. As of press time, the Legislature’s latest budget includes an increase in the state’s lodging tax from 9 percent to 10.5 percent, which was enough for LePage to announce that he would not sign it, essentially triggering the shutdown.
There is still a possibility of a last-second change in the budget to avoid a shutdown. Laying blame for the budget crisis at the feet of the Democrat-controlled Legislature, LePage issued a statement that noted that he was still fine-tuning which offices the shutdown would affect.
“The Legislature has had six months to address the budget I sent to them. Now we are in the eleventh hour and liberal Democrats have still refused to budge, which will lead to a government shutdown,” LePage said in a statement. “These Democrats are not interested in a budget that benefits hard-working Maine taxpayers. They are being controlled by labor union bosses and radical activists at the Maine People’s Alliance.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Jack Comart of the Maine Equal Justice Partners and Jeffrey Neil Young and Valerie Wicks of Johnson, Webbert & Young LLP.