AUGUSTA, Maine — Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency means many changes are in store for all Americans. But what could it mean for Maine?
A change in leadership — especially to a president who won with promises to upset or obliterate political norms — is bound to create ripples that reach every corner of the land. In Maine, some of those ripples will splash the State House, doctors’ offices and the North Woods.
Here are a few ways a Trump presidency could affect the state that made history by giving the Republican an electoral vote.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage now has an ally in the White House. After his preferred Republican candidates were eliminated in the primaries, LePage became one of Trump’s earliest and highest profile supporters. His daughter, Lauren LePage, even took a job with the Trump campaign in August.
How could that loyalty be rewarded?
LePage has been battling the Obama administration for six years on issues ranging from putting photos on social services cash benefits cards to blocking refugee resettlement to how to spend federal social services and Medicaid funding. With Trump in office, he’s likely to have an easier time gaining federal approval for his more draconian welfare reform proposals.
Given LePage’s aggressive stumping for Trump and the president-elect’s stated admiration for him, Maine’s governor will immediately gain more access to the federal executive branch when Trump is sworn in. That’s likely to make federal waivers more attainable for LePage’s social services, education and workforce reform initiatives. A Trump administration is less likely to buck LePage in those areas and might become an ally in the governor’s efforts to circumvent the Legislature on rulemaking for programs that require state-federal cooperation.
Maine’s congressional delegation might have to mend some fences. None of Maine’s representatives to Congress endorsed Trump, and three out of the four — Republican Sen. Susan Collins, independent Sen. Angus King and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree — voiced strong opposition to the prospect of Trump becoming president. Even Republican 2nd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who is easily more conservative than anyone else in the delegation, refused to endorse Trump or even publicly discuss him despite being hounded to do so throughout his re-election campaign.
It remains to be seen whether the Trump doubters, including numerous sitting U.S. senators and representatives, will suffer consequences from the White House. If they do, especially Republicans, we’re entering uncharted political territory.
In that scenario, it’s not a stretch to imagine those broken relationships could be detrimental to issues ranging from Pentagon contracts for Bath Iron Works — even though Trump has said he wants to increase the size of the Navy fleet — to any of a number of block grants that Maine has received for years.
Pingree, King and Collins had amicable working relationships with federal agencies, drawing lots of federal cash to the state for defense contractors, infrastructure upgrades and, in some cases, to underwrite law-enforcement and educators’ salaries. Those relationships will require some massaging as the delegation continues its work to tap federal coffers for Maine’s manifest needs.
Medicaid expansion in Maine could be a moot point. Proponents of expanding Medicaid under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act have tried six times to pass legislation to expand Medicaid eligibility as allowed under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Each effort has failed in the face of staunch opposition from LePage. With a legislative option blocked, proponents are gathering signatures in an effort to put the question to statewide referendum in 2018. Anecdotal reports about signature gathering on Election Day have indicated that they already have thousands of the more than 60,000 signatures they need.
But Trump and Republican leaders, who hold majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, have promised a wholesale repeal of Obamacare, which would take federal funding for expanded Medicaid in Maine off the table completely.
Federal dollars to Maine, especially in the central and northern 2nd District, could dry up. Trump is determined to make deep cuts in federal government spending, which will mean less federal funding for the states. Maine receives the 12th-most federal funding of any state, according to a recent analysis by WalletHub.com. Maine receives far more federal funding than it returns in the form of tax revenue, especially the more rural 2nd District, which is ironic considering all the Trump supporters there. Simple math says deep cuts to federal programs such as winter fuel assistance and weatherization could hit Maine hard.
Some of Obama’s initiatives could be unraveled. We’ve already discussed Medicaid and health care, but what about other initiatives? What about the national monument that President Barack Obama designated in the Katahdin region in August? Presidents do wield the power to eliminate national monuments under the provisions of the Antiquities Act of 1906, but later analyses, such as a 1938 U.S. Attorney General decision from when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to abolish a national monument created by President Calvin Coolidge, call that into question. Based on that decision, the Congressional Research Service agreed and said in a Clinton-era analysis of the issue that only an act of Congress can eliminate a national monument designation.
Still, Trump was critical of President Obama and his national monument designation.
“No consideration was made for local concerns, impacts on jobs or the Maine forestry sector, which is so important,” said Trump, according to WLBZ.
Though it is without precedent, this could be one favor that LePage, who is among the monument’s most ardent opponents, could call in.
Maine’s environment and natural resources could face a new threat. Trump does not believe that humans contribute to climate change and he has said he is not a fan of energy generated from wind and solar power. That’s of high concern for Maine’s environmental groups. Dylan Voorhees, climate and clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, worries Trump might unravel progress made by the Obama administration on the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air and power plans, particularly a rule that’s under development to reduce mercury and other emissions that pollute the air.
“We’re still reeling and contemplating what a Trump presidency might mean environmentally, both nationally in Maine,” Voorhees said. “It’s really hard, like the rest of his policy platform, to interpret what that will mean for the world. One thing it means is that we’re going to be on defense.”
There are a lot of questions about the Trump presidency, as there are whenever the power at the top changes hands. One thing that may work in Maine’s favor is that Trump undoubtedly knows Maine better than he did a year ago, thanks to his five campaign visits here. But whether President Trump is committed to the Pine Tree State as much as candidate Trump was remains to be seen.