The morning fog lifts beyond the Burton M. Cross Building, left, and the State House, Wednesday, June 21, 2023, in Augusta, Maine. The legislature is working to wrap up the current session. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — Taxpayers will be on the hook for nearly $50,000 in excess costs per day if the Maine Legislature’s work stretches into next week.

State law dictates that lawmakers normally adjourn a regular session by the third Wednesday in June in odd-numbered years, though the Legislature is currently in a special session following a maneuver by Democrats to approve a $9.8 billion budget without Republican support in March.

The Legislature’s executive director, Suzanne Gresser, said the branch’s budget assumes that two days of work will come after that date. Thursday was the first one, and the second one will be Friday. A spokesperson for House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, said Thursday that the session will continue into next week.

With the Democratic-led House and Senate still voting on a flurry of bills and yet to handle Gov. Janet Mills’ proposed addition to the budget ahead of the new fiscal year beginning July 1, no immediate end is in sight. A top Republican is putting the blame on Talbot Ross, whose chamber has seen many delays over the past two weeks.

“It’s been a pattern of behavior that everything that is not viewed as idyllic by her, I guess, has been parked over there and just tabled and tabled and tabled,” Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, told reporters Wednesday.

Both Talbot Ross and Jackson have each told their respective chambers they are not sure when the session could end, with lawmakers also needing more time to consider any vetoes from Mills, a Democrat who may oppose various measures that more progressive members favor.

In the past two weeks, each chamber — but more often the House — had floor sessions beginning in the morning and stretching late into the evening, including past midnight on a few days. Lengthy debates have occurred on bills covering issues like abortion, tribal rights, state flag designs, gun control and books in schools.

Stewart called it “a tremendous backlog of bills,” also saying that he has spoken with Jackson about the situation and that the top Senate Democrat is “not impressed” with Talbot Ross. A Jackson spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on Stewart’s remarks.

But in response to that criticism, Talbot Ross spokesperson Mary Erin Casale said the Legislature is “in the midst of advancing bills critical to economic security for Maine families, bolstering rural health care, and recognizing self-determination for the Wabanaki Nation.”

“House Democrats have been diligently working throughout the legislative session — that will continue today, this evening and over the next few days as they wrap up a highly productive session,” Talbot Ross spokesperson Mary-Erin Casale said Thursday morning.

After Friday, Gresser said the estimated cost of each legislative day will be $44,525. The total may close in on $50,000 because the first figure does not include printing costs that vary depending on the number of bills, calendars and amendments but does include the $100 per diem given to each lawmaker for attendance and travel as well staff payroll, Gresser added.

Maine lawmakers typically finalize state budgets before the next fiscal year begins in July, but it requires two-thirds support in order for the spending plan to take effect immediately.

In March, however, Democrats ignored Republican demands on tax relief and welfare work requirements, passed a two-year budget and then technically adjourned before coming back for the current special session to pass additional bills and seek a final addition to the spending package. If Democrats go it alone to pass an addition to the budget, the money will not be available to spend for three months.

Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, who serves on the budget committee, said some leaders met during the Juneteenth holiday to try to work through differences and he remains “cautiously optimistic” that two-thirds of lawmakers could agree to a spending plan.

But Bennett added that since he first won election to the House in 1990, this year “really is the worst I’ve seen in terms of backloaded work.”

“We really ought to take a step back and just catch our breath after this session and say, ‘Can’t we do better for the people of Maine?’” he said.

Billy Kobin is a politics reporter who joined the Bangor Daily News in 2023. He grew up in Wisconsin and previously worked at The Indianapolis Star and The Courier Journal (Louisville, Ky.) after graduating...