May 26, 2018
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The ‘nothing to do’ governor

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Gov. Paul LePage


Gov. Paul LePage says he scheduled a vacation earlier this month because he has nothing to do in Augusta. He could start to fill his time by selling his agenda.

“I went on vacation last week because I had nothing to do,” he said during an April 14 appearance at the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce. “Because I’m waiting. I’m waiting for legislation. I cannot do anything until the Legislature acts.”

Actually, governor you can. An effective governor doesn’t just sit in his office and tell lawmakers what to do and then wait around until he can sign legislation that fulfills his demands. He works to build coalitions to turn his ideas into reality. He meets with skeptics to convince him his path forward is the right path. He forges compromises so his best ideas move forward, while lesser ones are dropped, at least for now.

“If the loyal opposition wants to create jobs, vote on my budget,” Gov. LePage said after left-leaning groups criticized his first 100 days in office. “If the loyal opposition wants to move the state forward, vote on my LD1, on the reform package.”

Two things here. First, the governor wants Democrats (the loyal opposition) to vote on his budget now? The budget he himself said he plans to change next month, after the revenue forecasting committee offers new numbers?

Second, this is not how democracy works. The governor proposes a budget and a regulatory reform package. It is the Legislature’s responsibility to carefully weigh the potential benefits and detriments of such proposals, not simply rubber-stamp a governor’s plans. They must also hold public hearings. Problems will arise. Lawmakers, usually with help from the governor’s office, find ways to solve them.

To vote before any of this has happened not only would  be irresponsible, it also would violate state statute. Decisions on state spending and other policies are made in public, with input from the public. That takes time.

A governor also doesn’t insult the very people he needs to work with to turn his agenda into reality. A day before the Androscoggin meeting, Gov. LePage said lawmakers “haven’t done a damn thing.” Really?

The body that, only a month after the governor was sworn in, nearly unanimously passed a supplemental budget? Republican leaders should have trumpeted their success in passing the updated spending plan, which included payments of long-standing debt to the state’s hospitals and lowered taxes, so quickly and decisively. But instead the governor grumbled about minor changes that had been made and signed it in private.

Another update to the funding plan that goes through June 30 was passed last week.

“I’m sorry that the governor still doesn’t understand the legislative process and apparently nobody on his staff has explained it to him,” House Speaker Robert Nutting said of the governor’s criticism. “While the governor thinks we’ve been doing nothing, we’ve passed two supplemental budgets. We’re ahead of schedule from what a normal year would be like.”

Speaker Nutting, a Republican, added, “If he will be patient, he will get more than enough bills to keep him busy for the rest of the session.”

The governor could be patient, or, better, he could busy himself selling his ideas.

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