AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate on Wednesday rejected a proposal made by Gov. Paul LePage during his State of the State address in February to ask voters if they want to cut $100 million in state spending.

The bill, LD 1813, faces more votes in the Legislature, but a 21-13 vote in the Senate on Wednesday upheld a previous committee recommendation against the bill. The Senate’s vote was along party lines with the exception of Sen. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, who voted with Democrats to kill the bill.

Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, who sponsored the bill on LePage’s behalf, argued that the referendum would inform lawmakers about the will of the voters. Democrats have countered by saying that voters have already rejected several tax and spending reform initiatives in recent years, including two “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” citizen initiatives in recent years and a tax cap proposal in 2004.

Thomas said the results of LePage’s proposed referendum would be advisory.

“This is just a very simple up-or-down referendum,” Thomas said Wednesday morning in the Senate. “I think it’s time we asked the voters whether they favor lower taxes for the exchange of lower spending. Let’s allow the voters of Maine to speak.”

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Anne Haskell, D-Portland, said one of her problems with the bill is that it would bind the next governor — whomever that may be — to incorporate $100 million in spending cuts into his first budget proposal.

“That’s not advisory. That’s prescriptive,” said Haskell. “I think this is not the right type of policy to set forward with no guidelines at all about what we would do with a $100 million tax cut in the state of Maine. … It’s not based on good public policy.”

The bill will now be sent to the House for more votes.

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.