EDITORIALS

LePage meltdown puts GOP on the spot

Posted May 31, 2015, at 9:46 a.m.

Glass houses and stones, geese and gander, black pots and kettles all come to mind after watching Gov. Paul LePage attack Democratic lawmakers during a rant and insult filled press conference at the Blaine House Friday.

The governor is angry at Democrats in the Legislature for — among other things — delaying a vote on his most recent nominee to the Public Utilities Commission. Democrats say they need time to research the governor’s relationship with the commission, which will soon consist of three commissioners, all appointed by him.

Whatever the reason, the delay may be irksome, but it pales in comparison to the ultimatums the governor has — and continues — to issue.

During the same press conference, he said he would veto all Democratic legislation until lawmakers vote to pass his bill to put a question on the ballot to amend the state constitution to eliminate the income tax.

Earlier this year, the governor said he will not sign off on any bonds to fund land conservation projects until lawmakers pass a bill to increase timber harvesting on public lands. He says the increased revenue from timber sales will be used to help seniors heat their homes.

He has used bonds as bargaining chips before as well.

LePage says the delayed vote on Bruce Williamson, an economist at the University of Tennessee, reflects badly on Maine. So does his erratic, bullying behavior.

The Land for Maine’s Future bonds he refused to sign (putting some in jeopardy of expiring) were approved by voters and meant to fund conservation projects that have been approved by the Land for Maine’s Future board (made up of LePage appointees) and have long been in negotiation. In some instances, the Land for Maine’s Future approval was used to leverage other money, including private donations.

Land for Maine’s Future purchase agreements are business deals with families, corporations or others who want to preserve their land. Subjecting these entities to the whims of an impetuous governor who has shown he has no respect for institutions is unfair to them, but worse, it perpetuates the notion that Maine isn’t an honest broker when it comes to business dealings.

LePage’s refusal to let Land for Maine’s Future work as it long has and should is already chilling conservation as landowners considering public access easements and donations are turned off by the uncertainty the governor has injected into the program.

The governor and PUC also have injected uncertainty into energy projects, especially wind power development. By changing the terms of negotiations and reopening contracts, investment is being driven out of state. It also sends the message that Maine is untrustworthy.

“Remember, uncertainty is the enemy of investment, and the PUC should not be creating a shroud of uncertainty around this and future energy RFPs,” Jackson Parker, president and CEO of Reed & Reed, wrote in testimony to the PUC in February when it was deciding whether to reopen negotiations with two wind projects. “Quite simply, it would be bad public policy. It’s not easy attracting investment dollars to Maine and creating a practice of reneging on commitments will only make it more difficult.”

The PUC voted, 2-1, to reopen the process in late February.

Perhaps worst of all, but not surprising given the governor’s history of personal insults, was LePage saying House Speaker Mark Eves “should go back home to where he was born” and that Senate President Justin Alfond, both Democrats, “should be put in a playpen.”

This type of talk and behavior is “not helpful to the people of Maine,” to use LePage’s own words.

The question now is whether the governor has become an embarrassing carnival barker or whether Republicans stick with him, no matter who he insults or threatens.

 

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