Gov. Paul LePage’s latest verbal eruption — Thursday’s indefensible and mean-spirited “Vaseline” comments about Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson — drew more national attention to his crude behavior. In addition to further damaging Maine’s image at a time when visitors are flocking to the state, the governor’s embarrassing outburst creates a distraction from the harm his policies are doing to Maine people.
Friday’s apology to loggers, but not Jackson, and musing about a run in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District only add to the perception that Mainers are governed by a man prone to bizarre and petty pronouncements.
The governor’s words tarnish Maine’s image; his actions hurt the state’s people. Whether it’s vetoing legislation that makes CPR training available to all Maine high school students or to align private insurance prior authorization rules with those in place for Medicaid and Medicare, the governor has used his veto pen to inflict pain on Maine people.
In at least one instance, the Legislature can still salve the wounds.
LePage made his comments about Jackson shortly after reasserting that he plans to veto a compromise budget the Legislature sent him last week. The Legislature should override that veto, thereby avoiding a state government shutdown and upholding at least some of the trust Maine municipalities and property owners have placed in state government.
LePage criticized the compromise budget for raising taxes and vowed that he would “continue to fight against tax increases, even the little ones.” That’s not exactly honest, as the budget LePage presented in January includes a new tax on print publications and a proposal to suspend municipal revenue sharing. The latter may not be labeled a tax increase, but its real-world consequence is that many Maine property owners will pay more taxes.
Republican and Democratic legislators on the Appropriations Committee recognized that fact and unanimously crafted a better alternative budget that more fairly shares among all Mainers and visitors the responsibility to match government revenues with spending by enacting temporary sales, meals and lodging tax increases. Their budget also restores some of the cuts LePage proposed to Drugs for the Elderly and other programs that help vulnerable Mainers.
LePage’s insistence on labeling health insurance programs for low-income or ailing Mainers as “welfare” can’t hide the fact that he proposes cutting aid to poor and sick people. That stance moves his rhetoric beyond ironic to become cruel when he criticizes Jackson and other Democrats for not wanting to help Maine people, as he did Thursday.
When they return next week to deal with a promised budget veto, legislators can prevent state government from causing more harm to struggling Maine people by dismissing LePage’s disingenuous anti-tax rhetoric, rejecting his unacceptable continuing resolution alternative and enacting the compromise budget.
Strong bipartisan House and Senate votes to override the budget veto would send a healing message that the governor’s words represent his own narrow perspective and don’t reflect the values or viewpoints of most Mainers — or the people they elect to represent them in the Legislature.