AUGUSTA, Maine — Legislative negotiators now say they are preparing for a new budget hole of $350 million or more, which would more than double the gap they and Gov. John Baldacci originally sought to address.

By one count, lawmakers began their deliberations on a two-year spending package from a daunting vantage point, facing a gap between spending demands and anticipated revenue of $965 million.

That structural gap figure, however, relies on some trends, assumptions and statutory requirements that are routinely revised or discounted.

A more conservative gap estimate generally using a flat-funding starting point was pegged at $340 million. It has been that figure the governor and legislators budget writers have been trying to cover through a combination of cuts, deferrals, taxes and fees and increased federal funding.