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Maine Community College System May Face $1.95 Million Funding Cut

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. John Baldacci, spelling out how he would make up for the second $95 million reduction in state revenue estimates in three months, unveiled a budget change package Wednesday that relies largely on new proposals to cut back planned expenditures, including on state aid to local schools.

Spending on local schools would be reduced by $34.1 million, although $11 million would not come directly from allocations to districts, administration officials said.

Funding for higher education would be cut by $9.3 million.

“This is a very difficult day for all of us,” Baldacci said at a Cabinet Room news conference.

The governor also said 71 state positions would be eliminated under his plan — nearly 50 by layoffs, according to the administration.

Baldacci, a second-term Democrat, said he was not proposing new taxes or transfers from so-called Rainy Day reserves.

In that regard, said Senate Republican Leader Carol Weston of Montville, “we agree with the premise.”

Some Democrats, however, have already expressed reservations about filling a $190 million budget gap solely through cutbacks, which would take place most heavily in the areas of education and human services.

Administration officials said that to cover the $190 million gap, about $65 million is needed in fiscal year 2008, which ends June 30, and $125 million in fiscal year 2009.

If the new changes being proposed were enacted, General Fund spending would decrease by $60 million in 2009 from 2008 levels, the administration said.

“We must bring our spending in line with our revenues,” Baldacci said.

“These cuts are painful to me,” he added. “And I do them reluctantly.”

To realize the savings target in K-12 funding, the administration said $6.5 million would come in education cuts from miscellaneous accounts, such as Learning Results implementation, and $5.2 million in delayed debt service, delayed projects and a one-year hold on funding for capital construction at private academies.

The proposed spending adjustments would have the effect of extending a scheduled ramping up of state funding for K-12 education to reach 55 percent from four years to five years — that is, to 2010.

An analysis by the House speaker’s office said the Baldacci package would cut $7.1 million from the University of Maine System, $1.95 million from the Community College System and $300,000 from the Maine Maritime Academy.

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