Commentary

Hitchcock: Governor Raises Awareness With Christmas Tree and Rubber Pigs

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“Christmas in July” came early in Maine this year, as Governor LePage used a Christmas tree and rubber pigs in a press conference on Wednesday to illustrate his frustrations over the current spending plan legislators came up with. While this method may seem bizarre and has been called “political theater”, the Governor is really just trying to get the people’s attention about what is actually going on regarding the budget. He worries that there is a lot of needless spending in the budget and wants to adjust funding for bigger, long term programs.

Aside from being humorous, the Christmas tree and pigs actually have some symbolism regarding what the Governor is frustrated with. Those in politics will sometimes call a bill that includes many different projects a “Christmas Tree.” Many different projects of varying sizes will be scattered throughout a single bill, thus “ornamenting” the bill with many spending projects. When politicians are not using the Christmas Tree analogy, lawmakers will describe adding multiple projects to a single bill as filling a bill with “pork”, which is why the Governor used rubber pigs.

The governor expressed concerns that these extra projects are not necessary, and use taxpayer money inefficiently. He states that this money could go to other serious projects that require government attention, and not for projects like funding a study within the Department of Transportation to determine the feasibility of expanding passenger rail service to Bangor. Governor LePage again stated he would line-item veto the “pork” in these bills, but the Maine Legislature is already gearing up to override these vetoes. The Governor has gone as far as saying the current Legislature is “corrupt” for engaging in these practices.

Another practice Gov. LePage spoke out against is known as “cascade”. This is when the surplus from the previous year’s budget is carried over to the next year’s budget. The Governor suggested that the surplus funds should go towards a fund in cases of emergencies.

While his line-item vetoes will likely be overridden, as the Legislature only needs a majority in each house to do so, the press conference did manage to grab the media’s attention. Through this unconventional method, the Governor has alerted the Maine people of what is going into the budget, and wants to inform them of what is actually being spent in the budgets.

About Nathan Hitchcock

Nathan Hitchcock is currently a law student at the University of Maine School of Law and volunteers as a researcher for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. Prior to law school, he attended Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he earned a B.A. in Political Economy.

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