Editorial: Line-Item Vetoes Necessary to Correct Legislature’s Mistakes

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Governor Paul LePage is doing exactly what he’s promised Mainers he’d do from the first day he set foot on the campaign trail: rein in spending to lower the tax burden on the people of this state. If only his colleagues in the Republican-led legislature had the same focus.

Instead, the legislature’s Appropriations Committee continues to make modifications to the Governor’s budgets that water down real reform. Fortunately for the working people of Maine, Governor LePage is exercising a rare tool to make sure our government doesn’t continue to live outside of its means—the line-item veto.

LePage’s vetoes correct two problems the legislature has created through the modification of his original budget. First, the legislature ignored the fact that DHHS has been in violation of federal guidelines in submitting for reimbursements costs for criminals involuntarily admitted for psychiatric care. LePage’s budget sought to correct this, but the legislature is trying to thwart this correction. The result would be another DHHS reimbursement mess.

Second, the Governor is attempting to reel in the out-of-control growth of General Assistance funding provided to municipalities. In particular, local GA programs have started using the “emergency housing” provision in GA guidelines to provide long-term funding for housing costs.

This was clearly not the intent of the provision, but municipalities have created a web of de facto housing agencies through the GA program. It just so happens that Maine has a well-funded bureaucracy already in place to deal with these cases. It’s called the Maine State Housing Authority.

General Assistance is a program that needs increased scrutiny in our state. The Maine Wire reported earlier this year on the town of Windham’s struggle with the program. Windham dropped its contract with an outside social services company and hired an employee to monitor the program. The result was a decrease in GA expenditure from $450,000 under the outside company’s management to $25,000 under the town’s direct management.

Though every town is different, the Windham experience shows that cries for more state GA funding may be the result of poor management rather than actual need.

So why is the legislature pushing back against these changes? Enter the Appropriations Committee. By many accounts, the Appropriations Committee is being run by left-wing lobbyist groups, instead of the Republican leadership. Stalwart liberal Democrats like John Martin and Peggy Rotundo exercise more functional control of the appropriations process than their GOP colleagues, and these Democrats take their marching orders from state-funded social services lobbyists at Maine Equal Justice Partners and other similar groups.

Perhaps the biggest mistake in leadership of the 125th Legislature was the appointment of a remarkably weak liberal Republican as House Chair of Appropriations. Pat Flood, beloved by leadership for his docile nature, has on multiple occasions shown his inability to preside over the most important subset of the legislature.

The most public failure came toward the end of the First Session. Flood, so bothered by the disapproval of his Democrat colleagues, quit his position as chair in anger when the GOP passed PL90, the free-market health insurance reform package that has already driven down the growth in premiums for the majority of Mainers. Leadership made a second mistake in reappointing Flood to the position after the tears had dried.

Flood’s primary concern is comity with his peers on the Appropriations Committee, and Democrats have shown they know how to manipulate him. Martin and Rotundo can make the slightest shift in funding for any organization sound like the end of times, and Flood cannot resist the pressure. Flood’s concern for his Democrat friends is a microcosm of what is happening in this legislature at large.

When a proposal to reform government is put on the table, the first question current GOP leadership asks is, “What will the Democrats think of this?” The worship of collegiality under the dome has caused many in the GOP to lose sight of why they are there, and this results in grand errors in judgment.

A perfect example is the effort of the GOP-led legislature to fill a hole in the DHHS budget last month by raising taxes on Mainers by $5 million. In the end, pressure from conservatives thwarted this effort. But many of us have been left stunned that a GOP majority would really believe raising taxes was an option.

The 125th Legislature has been a mixed bag for conservatives, but the pattern that has emerged from leadership has not been impressive. It has come to Governor LePage to act as the adult in the room time and time again. He has had to push the legislature to remember who they were before they were swept into this leadership by an electorate that has become tired of the out-of-control growth of government.

Republicans are in charge today because the people of Maine want reform. Unless they get it, the GOP will be back in perpetual minority status by the end of the year.

LePage’s veto is a test also for Senate leadership, all three of whom face primary elections in their pursuit of higher office. Standing between a Governor popular with the base and his efforts to reduce the size of government would seem a perilous decision for Raye, Courtney, and Plowman, and primary voters will be watching.

Governor LePage’s refusal to capitulate to the legislature on these budget issues should be applauded. If those in the GOP want another shot at running the legislature next year, they should take a lesson in leadership from the second floor.

1 COMMENT

  1. Worth repeating:

    “The Maine Wire reported earlier this year on the town of Windham’s struggle with the program. Windham dropped its
    contract with an outside social services company and hired an employee to monitor the program. The result was a decrease in GA expenditure from $450,000 under the outside company’s management to $25,000 under the town’s direct management.

    Though every town is different, the Windham experience shows that cries for more state GA funding may be the result of poor management rather than actual need.”

    ************

    Wow. That’s one heck of a change in cost. The outside consulting company probably isn’t happy, but I’d be pleased if I were a Windham resident.

  2. We have had years of doing things the “Democrat way”.  I wish for once the legislature would give Gov LePage the courtesy of their support and pass his budgets as he presents them.  I think his budgets will work and save  taxpayers tons of money.  I fear there are to many R’s (D’s too) that are more concerned about the next election and are financially so well heeled that the tax burden they impose on the rest of us do not impact them personally.  

  3. Real Leadership, that’s what there is in such short supply in Augusta. People are mistaken there aren’t 2 parties in Augusat there are three, The Democrats, The Republicans and the Lawyer/Lobby. Wanna guess which one has the leadership of the other two by the short hairs?

  4. Ditto.  I knew before his election that this was not going to be a walk in the park. Way too many Rhinos out of touch with Republican ideals.  Makes you wonder about the old Reagan saying I believe the 11th commandment “thou shall not criticise another Republican”.  I think it’s time to move on over that rule.  The culture is becoming more and more apparent in Augusta.  We know who they are and it’s time for real conservatives to make their disapproval known at the ballot box. I don’t know how the “leadership” gets away with the obvious anti-LePage behavior.  It is an attack on the populace as well.  June can’t come soon enough is some circles.  It’s all about the culture.  These people have been playing games with the Liberals too long.  This is one of the reasons I am running for Senate of District 29 Kevin Raye’s vacated seat.  Sounds crazy and out of reach.  Well, I guess we’ll see come primary time.  I hope to see you around Richard.  You do nice work.

  5. Thank God for Gov. LePage! Without his leadership there would be little in the way of real reform of state government.
    Peggy Rotundo is a dispicable liar who, hopefully, will be tossed out of office this fall. I urge everyone in her district to support Tim Lajoie and vote for him this November.
    John Martin is just a moonbat, enough said there.
    We also need to continue to support real leaders such as Rich Cebra and Deb Plowman. These folks get it and continue to lead the fight for the people of Maine.
    It’s well past time to show these marxist organizations such as Maine Peoples Alliance and Maine Equal Justice Partners (there’s nothing equal or just in what they believe) that their agenda will not carry the day.

  6. from the way the vote went his veto would most likely be over ridden and merely cause more embrassement to his office.
     perhaps honey instead of vinegar is the way to move foward

  7. the problem is he was elected by a minority of the voters. Seems the number was like 39%- you can’t come running in the kitchen like a raging bull in a china shop without waking the voter!
      Most voters want to lower taxes when possible -no one trusts a radical approach-especially one that has a threating
    approach!
      like the ole saying “honey not vinegar attracts flies”

  8. Several Legislators voted YES for there were some good pieces in the budget however, as in any budget, there are things not to like.  

  9. Stop with the “honey”,Tip!  Gov. LePage could drown those Dems and the 4 renegade R’s in honey and they would lap it up and do exactly what they wanted to,which is probably opposite to what the Governor proposed. If the Governor would prostrate himself before them to please them,they’d be delighted. Dream on, renegades and oppositional Dems.!

  10. Hey joe,
    “No one trusts a radical approach? ” Where were you for the last 30 plus years when the radical left was spending us into oblivion ? Richard M Cebra is right about too little leadership. Leadership takes guts and there are too few willing to do the tough things. Both sides of the aisle are guilty. ” Cover your butt ” seems to be motto of the weak. Le Page is our last great hope for a Maine with a future. Let him run the show his way and let’s back him up. When you disagree…SHUT UP.. let it play out. Have faith

  11. it is time to bring the GA down to the local level for now, and make the law so a participant can only get it from the town in which they live, and the names and amounts be posted at the town office and in the warrant. No extra funding after 50% from the state. Then change the Law to take away all GA in Maine, period. There are other programs to help the seniors and children, and GA only enables people to continue to take from others who have to give it up by force, and it is given to people who will continue to make bad life decisions if we allow it. If we want to help people in poverty, we need to make them very uncomfortable, and show them they can keep the fruits of labor…and then the government can show them we were right by taking some of it. Problems are caused by government, this being a fine example, not solved by government, and the GA problem proves Cloward & Piven is alive and well in Maine…

  12. Absolutely, Most of the budget was good, there were a few items in it that I hated. Legislating is making choices, this budget on the budget scale is on the lower side of priorities budget wise. I supported the budget for one reason, I don’t have a line item veto in my current position. As far as Gerald from Dirigo Blue is concerned , Go Pound salt you progressive hack.

  13. Tell us Gerald, does your funding for your web site come directly from George Soros or does it get shilled around like most of his funding to one of the couple of dozen organizations to muddy up it’s origin, before it ends up at it’s final resting place. and I’m a hundred pounds lighter now so you can’t divert and make snarky comments about how fat I am and how amazed you were that I put the donuts and trans fats down to type this message. Low even for you.

  14. I would like to tell every one of our Republicans to quit jerking around and support our Governor.  Quit playing politics and help do the right thing for our state.  The tax payers need a break.  Haven’t you read the stats on Maine?  We’re sick and tired of the same garbage coming out of Augusta, year after year.  It’s time you changed the status quo!

  15. The line-item veto was instituted for just such a purpose as the governor used it.   This provision would not exist at all, would make no sense at all, if out legislators could be trusted to do their duty and resist the wails and demands of special interests.

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