This week, the Maine legislature will reconvene to consider another supplemental budget. As the Appropriations Committee joins hands once again, we at The Maine Wire have one simple suggestion to avoid the chaos that has surrounded previous budgets: go talk to the Governor’s office before you pass this one.
The Republican leadership in Augusta has put a premium on getting along with opposition Democrats, especially through the budget process. Some powerful GOP legislators seem to believe that forming consensus with the opposing party is more important than maintaining clarity of mission with the Governor.
Last week, two Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Roger Katz and Rep. Pat Flood, wrote a scathing op-ed, lashing out at Governor LePage for using the term “corrupt” to describe the mid-level bureaucracy in our state government. The governor’s strong language apparently gave the two liberal Republicans the vapors. Nevertheless they found the strength to pen the angry op-ed, likely after they were revived with smelling salts.
Katz and Flood further the stereotype of the pandering, value-free politician that follows the prevailing wind of public sentiment, even if it means turning against one’s own party. Defenders of this center-worship would argue that political pragmatism makes it the smart move. The problem is, voters see through this. Constituents don’t elect leaders to obey a perfect center-line when it comes to tax policy and state government issues. Voters send people to Augusta to fix problems, not make friends.
Maine’s problems can’t be fixed if the legislature continues to follow the errant path that got us to this point. That errant path was paved by the people GOP leadership seem hell-bent on compromising with: Democrats like John Martin, Peggy Rotundo, and other big-government, welfare-state liberals that would take every penny out of the taxpayers’ pockets if left unopposed. Since Republicans gained control of the legislature, our budgets have been disproportionately impacted by these types, and the change needed to get Maine on track has been delayed.
This time around, the GOP majority should look in a different direction for guidance on the budget. Governor LePage and his staff have consistently led the charge to fix the decades-old problems hurting our businesses, our families, and our kids. Instead of worrying about what the opposition might think, GOP leadership needs to look to Governor LePage and make sure the budget reflects his agenda, before forcing another veto standoff. Rather than passing a compromised budget based on capitulation to the worst players in state government, they should fashion a budget they are certain their governor will sign.
This budget exercise may well be the last one controlled by the GOP. Republicans face a tough election this fall, and many are betting on a Democrat takeover of at least one House of the legislature. GOP leadership has the opportunity to forestall their eviction by sticking to the principles that got them elected. These principles won’t be embraced by their liberal colleagues, but the GOP needs to show some spine to ensure Maine voters they were serious when they said they’d get this state back on track.