The two-year state budget may be signed, but Gov. Paul LePage and the Legislature’s top Democrat have already teased their tacks for the next standoff, likely to happen sometime next year.
The budget agreement reached by the Republican governor and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, will likely require a supplemental budget in 2018 because it leaves additional funding for Maine direct-care workers unaddressed in the next fiscal year.
Before he signed the budget on Monday, LePage praised the loyal House Republicans for holding up two budget deals before that by withholding needed two-thirds majorities, saying they “held together and controlled the majority” and “kicked butt.”
He also relayed a conversation with House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, saying, “Ken told me the next supplemental budget, we’re going to be in the driver’s seat,” foreshadowing a continuation of their strategy to boost LePage’s voice in the Legislature.
On Wednesday, Gideon was pre-emptively fighting back along those lines in an appearance with Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, on Maine Public’s “Maine Calling.”
She said “the governor’s participation in the legislative process become less and less relevant as he heads into his last year of government” before he leaves office in early 2019.
But he’s hinting at a power play: While he signed a budget that added $162 million in education funding, he told WGAN on Thursday that it was a “ransom” for eliminating the voter-approved surtax on high income for schools and told that group of lawmakers on Monday that there would be “hell to pay in education,” according to Maine Public.
LePage, who was in the Blaine House for much of the shutdown, also blamed protesters for “keying Republican cars” over the weekend, even though there’s no evidence of that.
It was a reference to reports of vandalism from two lawmakers, Reps. Sheldon Hanington of Lincoln and Tim Theriault of China. But the Kennebec Journal reported that Capitol Police found no intentional damage to Theriault’s car and Hanington’s truck was damaged in his Lincoln driveway.
This item was originally published in Daily Brief, a free political newsletter distributed Monday through Friday by the Bangor Daily News to inform dialogue about Maine politics and government. To read more of today’s Daily Brief, click here. To have the Daily Brief delivered daily to your inbox, click here.