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"Thinking Beyond Paul LePage"

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The cozy relationship between Paul LePage, ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Koch Brothers (a major donor to ALEC) is brought to light in a recent Colin Woodard article in the Portland Phoenix. Most of the inner workings at ALEC remain covert, but Woodard reveals that the new corporate chair of ALEC for the state of Maine is Ann Robinson, a close advisor to LePage and also a corporate lobbyist at Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios. Woodard writes: "Robinson was the author of the governor's infamous "Phase I" regulatory reform agenda, which sought to roll all of Maine's environmental laws back to weaker federal standards, restore the endocrine disruptor Bisphenol-A to baby's bottles and sippy cups, gut product-recycling legislation, and rezone 30 percent of the Maine North Woods for development. We later obtained documents showing she did so by cutting and pasting language provided by major North Woods landholders, the producers of many currently recycled products, the pulp and paper industry, and her colleagues at Preti . . . She's the governor's first choice to fill a vacancy on the board of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network . . .and already sits on the committee that vets his potential judicial nominees."

Dirigo Blue, in addition to cross-posting the Woodard article, documents the close parallels between Maine's new health insurance reform law and "model legislation" from ALEC. More information on ALEC is available at Alec Exposed. [Posted 9/8/11]

Mural-Gate Continues: LePage's televised lie in which he reversed his previous statements on the reason for the removal of the Labor Mural did not win him did not win him any points with Maine people. According to LePage's recent statements, his only objection to the mural is that he believes the employees insurance account was "robbed" in order to pay for it. We have a few questions for Mr. LePage: (1) If what he stated recently is true and he has no objection to any perceived "pro-labor bias" to the mural, why were the names of labor heroes also stripped from eight Dept. of Labor Conference rooms? (2) If he is indeed holding the mural as ransom until the money is repaid, why was the mural earlier offered to the City of Portland? (3) If the people of Maine paid for the mural in the first place and if they want that mural displayed now, who is the ransom being demanded of, who is expected to pay it, and to what end? The Portland Daily Sun opinion piece on the latest mural flap is here. [Posted 10/1/11]

We find ourselves agreeing with LePage on a few issues lately, but -- don't worry -- we're still counting on the fingers of the first hand, and that is since January. LePage is opposed to a Air National Guard plan that would allow low-altitude flight training in a large area in western Maine. In his weekly radio address, LePage spoke out against cuts to the funding for LIHEAP, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. In the "I'm not so sure" category is LePage's proposal to eliminate income tax on pensions. In other news, a large-scale replica of the labor mural is seeing the light of day, but not in Maine. [Posted 8/23/11]

Somewhere in hell, Satan may be taking notes. Imagine putting up with the devil on a daily basis. Then imagine that you have to listen to his daughter telling you what a good job he is doing. Imagine you also pay the daughter's salary. That is not entirely unlike the situation we have in Maine. Lauren LePage, daughter of the governor and member of his staff, recently spoke to a small audience of Republicans and touted the accomplishments, thus far, of the LePage administration. She cited these as: (1) deregulating the health insurance industry; (2) presiding over the biggest tax cut in Maine's history; (3) improving the business climate in Maine by removing regulations.

In response, we would say (1) deregulating health insurance will certainly benefit insurance companies and also hurt the Maine people who need health insurance the most. (2) The lion's share of the tax cuts will benefit the rich -- and are being paid for by state workers and teachers. (3) If government doesn't make sure the drive for corporate profits is balanced with the public interest, who will?

In other news, the Kennebec Journal reports that the number of Maine children living in poverty has increased by 42 percent in the last 9 years, a rate much higher than in the nation as a whole. reports Portland Maine is experiencing record numbers of homeless people this summer. Paul LePage didn't cause these problems, but he also isn't doing much of anything to fix them either. [Posted 8/18/11]

Something Fishy This Way Comes:
--“While legitimate fishing industry representatives wait months for an appointment, a single vocal individual with wild accusations can get through the door within days.”
--“This administration is more interested in pacifying special interest groups than in responsibly managing Maine’s marine resources for the benefit of the entire state.”
--Norm Olsen, former Commissioner of Marine Resources.

There is a lot of "he said, she said," revolving around the Norm Olsen resignation. Bottom line is that LePage picked the guy in the first place -- meaning he was either wrong then or is wrong now. Olsen's claim that LePage was undercutting him and playing to special interests fits pretty well with the view of LePage as one who does not trust even the people who work for him, who holds grudges (in this case against the city of Portland), and who plays to special interests. Olsen states he was even barred from attending meetings between LePage and industry officials. Olsen's resignation letter is here. [Posted 7/25/11]

Got Controversy? The Sun-Journal offers an opinion piece on the Olson resignation. The BDN reports on LePage's warning about cuts to home heating assistance. The Portland Phoenix reports that much of LePage's regulatory reform legislation was copied and pasted from corporate memos. The Daily Kos provides its view of the Olsen resignation, the LePage -Perry (Le-Perry?) Day of Prayer, and the copy and paste flap. Paul LePaste, indeed. [Posted 7/25/11]

LePage angrily criticized the media for not presenting his side of the Norm Olsen firing. Reporters claim, however, that when they contact the governor's office for comments, they frequently do not receive a response. Reporters do frequently play hardball and no one ever said that dealing with the press is easy, but -- as evidenced by the video clip above -- LePage once again shows that in the face of disagreement, the only course of action he knows is anger, disrespect, and belittlement. A PPH opinion piece on the incident is here. [Posted 8/1/11]

Got Ideology? LePage didn't attend the National Governors Conference last weekend. Perhaps he needed the extra time to rehearse the speech he presented today at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. The spectacle of our Paul LePage speaking at a national conservative forum on healthcare is almost overwhelming in its irony. And where did Paul gain his credentials as a healthcare luminary? Was it after working out the weekly bathroom cleaning schedule at Mardens, or before? (LePage himself credited his observations of the 1970's Canadian healthcare system with shaping his beliefs.) Tarren Bragdon, a former LePage advisor and now of Florida, was part of an expert panel that followed the speech. I'm betting it was his words LePage was spouting. An audio file of LePage's speech is here.

LePage recently signed into law a bill that changes Maine's 38-year tradition of allowing same-day voter registration. A petition drive to restore same-day voter registration kicks off tomorrow. The level of enthusiasm for the petition drive may provide an interesting indicator of public dissatisfaction with the overall direction LePage is taking our state. [Posted 7/8/11]

National perspective is provided by Julie Ingersoll's column on the Tea Party and education choice, and by Bill Clinton's comments on same-day voter registration legislation. E.J. Dionne, Jr. has a Washington Post column on the same topic. Sarah Jaffe of Alternet has written an article featuring the "10 Scariest Governors." LePage, as you might imagine, is one of them. Jaffe states that most of these governors were elected in 2010 after focusing their campaigns on creating jobs. Jaffe goes on to say, "A year or more into their terms, taxes have been cut, the wealthy are doing fine, and working people, particularly immigrants and women, are struggling. The promises of jobs have given way to Shock Doctrine-style cuts, attacks on unions, public services, and voting rights." [Posted 7/7/11]

National perspective on politics in Maine is provided by a couple of sources. A Washington Post editorial, "How States are Rigging the 2012 Election," details the regulatory initiatives being imposed on the voting process. The Cap Times features, "Pull back the curtain to expose the ‘wizard’ behind Walker," an editorial which describes the behind-the-scenes national political organization that not only develops legislative proposals benefiting big business, but also has been successful in getting them introduced and pushed through the legislatures in every state. [Posted 6/20/11]

Politics Before People, Again: Hundreds, maybe thousands, of Maine people will go to polling places to vote in the next election, only to be turned away. Others may go to register two business days prior to the election and likewise be turned away. For 37 years, Maine has allowed same-day voter registration. Many town clerks have stated that the current system is not a problem. Voter fraud has likewise not been a problem. Yet the Republicans somehow see the status quo as a problem.

This week, Paul LePage is expected to sign into law a bill that will require voters to register at least three business days prior to an election.

Young people, first time voters, college students, and those who have re-located are likely to be most impacted. In what universe except a corrupt one is the increased voter participation made possible by same day registration not a good thing? Would someone please explain in what way, shape, or form is this people before politics?

MPBN covers the issue here. Mike Tipping shares his thoughts on the bill here. A video featuring Congresswoman Chellie Pingree's discussion of the issue on the Rachel Madow show is below. [Posted 6/14/11]

Where there's Smoke, there's Hot Air: At the Town Hall Meeting in Rockport last week, LePage made what seemed an oddball reference that people were trying to "ban" woodstoves in Maine. Turns out this is another case of overheated rhetoric from LePage. A bill recently vetoed by LePage, LD 547: "Resolve, Directing the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to Conduct a Review of Wood Smoke Laws" merely called for "a study of current laws relating to the control of wood smoke and enforcement procedures to determine if they are sufficient to protect the public." It would have required a stakeholder group to report back to the Legislature next January. The Kennebec Journal article on LePage's veto of this bill is here. [Posted 6/24/11]

investigate whether the LePage administration has deliberately violated several new laws relating to chemicals and human health. MPBN states, " . . . the governor proceeded to eliminate and reassign professional staff at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection charged with implementing and enforcing the BPA phaseout that takes effect in January." If even one child gets sick because of the foot-dragging, it will be on LePage's ledger. [Posted 7/12/11]

LePage's life story is back in the news due to his Saturday radio address in which he spoke out on the issue of domestic violence (see 7/9/11 post below).
For many LePage supporters, the governor's life story, which includes being a victim of domestic abuse is at least as compelling as his stance on issues. Despite the fact that Paul "Buffalo Count" LePage has a habit of fabricating and stretching the truth, they believe LePage's self-promoted and narrated story unquestioningly. I count myself among those who never took a hard look at it. Dirigo Blue (see comments section below the post) and White Noise Insanity are two bloggers who have written about some of the inconsistencies and less honorable parts of the LePage narrative. To the extent that LePage has used this story to gain popular support, it is important that we ask questions about it. Whether LePage was ever truly homeless and whether he has a "second family" in Canada are among the questions. [Posted 7/11/11]

It's good that LePage is speaking out on the issue of domestic violence.  However, his behavior (saying he would like to punch a reporter, telling Obama to go to hell, stating, "I'd laugh at them, the idiots" about some of his own constituents) shows he is still playing out the drama with his abusive father.  In those instances, LePage said just what his father would have said.  He is still out to prove something, he is still running scared, he still doesn't know how to deal with conflict.  If he were still manager of Marden's, I'd find it easier to admire his life story.  Unfortunately, he is now in a most public of positions, and so his unresolved drama has become our drama as well. [Posted 7/9/11]

Transparent in Name Only:
A Sun-Journal column by Steve Mistler analyzes the relationships between LePage and the media and LePage and Republican-led legislature. During the final months of the legislative session, LePage rarely spoke directly to reporters. Following the public relations disasters of March and April, his staff limited him to working behind the scenes. As Mistler states in his column,
"Media access to the governor has been limited since he took office. Requests for one-on-one interviews are repeatedly denied, and the administration has declined to release the governor's weekly appearance schedule . . .Over the final months of the session the governor was rarely seen or heard. Getting the governor's thoughts on specific legislation or initiatives was obviously difficult. He was often whisked away by staff before answering questions at bill signings, some of which went unannounced to the press." [Posted 7/5/11]

Now that the legislative session is over and the agonizing decisions over budget cuts have been made, many Mainers probably feel that even though some beneficial programs have been lost, at least the budget is in order.  However, this is far from the truth.  As Douglas Rooks and Dirigo Blue both document, if the LePage tax cuts are maintained in the next 2 year budget, Maine will face a budget shortfall of more than $350 million.  

The next legislature will thus face the dilemma of whether to raise taxes or to make massive cuts in programs.  

LePage himself will use this manufactured crisis as a mandate for making unprecedented reductions in social services and in the size of state government -- the changes he has wanted all along. For Maine people, it will be change under the gun rather than change because we believe in it.

LePage will have brought us to the brink of financial ruin, a place of narrowed options where the interests of citizens are pitted one against the other. And then he and the Koch brothers will have us right where they want us. That's the plan -- believe it, or become a victim of it. [Posted 6/27/11]

Mixed Reviews: As we roll into summer, MPBN reports the good news that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently named Maine number one in terms of business-friendly infrastructure. A Cris Edward Johnson editorial in the Bangor Daily News argues that the Maine business community is practical rather than ideological -- and that no one should assume they are universally aligning themselves with Paul LePage.

The Kennebec Journal provides a summary and review of the just-ended legislative session. A Douglas Rooks editorial in argues that the LePage tax cuts set Maine up for serious budget problems as soon as 2 years down the road.

A Mother Jones column (also see chart below) explains how corporations are squeezing the American worker. LePage, however, still wants you to believe that all our problems are due to regulations, unions, and government. [Posted 6/26/11]

News Article:
"Gov. Paul LePage’s administration testified in favor of the bill, saying it was not taking a stand on moral grounds but rather in hopes of helping businesses." (BDN, 6-8-11). On this highly controversial issue that pits the rights of transgender people against the privacy rights of others, Paul LePage comes down on the side of . . . BUSINESS. You gotta admit, LePage is predictable, if nothing else. [Posted 6/8/11]

Headline: LePage Seeks to Slice Buffer Zone Around Vernal Pools (BDN, 6-6-11). Despite the many good reasons for maintaining buffer zones around these ecologically important seasonal miniature wetlands, and despite the fact that the current law (which simply requires an additional permit if building inside the buffer) has not blocked even one project to date, LePage wants to reduce buffer zones from 250 to 75 feet. What's the problem with the status quo? The problem is that our man of science, Paul LePage, chose to censor the IFW report which recommended leaving the current 250 foot buffer intact. And he is choosing to get a change to this rule, even though it may lead to increased oversight from federal agencies. A couple of weeks ago, LePage told us that eagles don't pay taxes and therefore their nests should be moved if they are blocking development. Any day now, he'll be telling us that frogs don't pay taxes either.

Send the man a copy of Silent Spring! [Posted 6/6/11]

Open for Business / Closed for Everything Else? What does it mean, really, “Open for business?”  The problem is not so much what it says but what it doesn’t say.  How about, “Also open for workers.”  Open for retirees.  Open for students.  Open for families.  Open for environmental protection.  Open for farmers.  Open for fishermen.  Open for immigrants.  Open for tourists. Open for innovation.  Open for democracy.  Open for progress.  Open for everyone.

Three perfectly good words:  “Open for Business.”  Why the controversy?  Business is good for Maine.  How could anyone be saying that we don’t need more business?  How could the placement of these words on a sign lead to such divisiveness?  How can the words “open for business” be perceived as partisan?           

For starters, let’s just say that if  the LePage agenda were not  so blatantly pro-business, anti-union, anti-worker, and anti-environment, the sign would be a lot less controversial . . .   
Read more | Vote in Our New Poll [Posted 6/2/11]

Headline: In weekly address, LePage says new health insurance bill will lower costs (BDN, 5/28/11). LePage continues to spit into the wind by proclaiming that the new health insurance bill, LD 1333, will not increase rates for the elderly and those living in rural areas.. LePage's statements are in stark contrast with those from other sources such as the BDN, for example, which states in an article from last week: "In a series of phased-in steps beginning in 2012, insurers will be able to charge adults who are older, who smoke, who are employed in high-risk occupations or who live in rural areas up to five times more than they charge younger, healthier residents of urban areas."

Five times as much qualifies as an increase, one would think!. It's easy to see where LePage has his fingers crossed behind his back, though. When he states the bill will not increase the rates for the elderly and those in rural areas, he is technically correct. The bill itself does not increase rates, but it sure does pave the way for the insurance companies to do just that. [Posted 5/30/11]

Headline: Maine Lawmakers Loosen Teen Work Rules (BDN, 5/27/11). LePage is expected to sign into law the Republican-sponsored bill, which will allow 16 and 17-year olds to work as many as 6 hours on the afternoon / evening preceding a school day. Noteworthy is that this is yet another bill in which Republicans have aimed to bring Maine law in line with that in other states. If it is good enough for other states, the reasoning goes, it should be good enough for us. Apparently we have forgotten the motto, "I lead." This amended bill is more restrictive than the original bill but still will put teens more at the beck and call of employers. The working teens I have talked to seem easily pressured into taking on whatever schedule the employer has asked them to take -- and give consideration to schoolwork and school activities secondarily after that. [Posted 5/27/11]

"People pay taxes; eagles don't."
--Paul LePage. No kidding. Eagles don't pay taxes. Nor do moose or mice or monarch butterflies. Nor do children or the old or the poor. Does that mean they deserve no consideration? It was just plain dumb thing to say. And yeah, environmental protections do create inconveniences sometimes, and LePage might even be right about the nest in Wiscasset, but it was still a dumb thing to say. Environmental laws are there for a reason -- and (kinda like conflict of interest laws), the system doesn't work very well if you just follow them when it is convenient to do so. [Posted 5/21/11]

LePage on why he likes charter schools: "Do I believe it [creationism] should be taught in schools? Yes. So, I will - yes - be pushing to have it taught. The likelihood of it passing the state of Maine legislature is not good. So, what we can do to do that is our charter schools, magnet schools, special schools and give them the right to do whatever they want."
--Rockland, ME; 3-11-11
[Posted 5/21/11]

Foot in the Door? Just because LePage is behind them doesn't mean Charter Schools are a bad idea. As a FB commenter stated, "Even a blind squirrel gets a nut now and then." I was trying to keep an open mind about this, but then I went and re-read LePage's speech to the Homeschooler Convention and was reminded why deregulating schools during a LePage administration is a scary prospect. Tidbits from that speech include: (1) LePage supports prayer in schools; (2) LePage supports the teaching of creationism; (3) LePage supports diverting money from public schools to private schools, religious schools, and to the parents of homeschoolers; (4) he wants to see public school enrollment shrink; (5) he wants Maine to be a red state. LePage states teachers should be respected but also implies disdain for them and for the quality of public schools. Is it mere coincidence that the Koch brothers would also like to dismantle the public school system? Highlights (lowlights?) from LePage's speech are here. News on the progress of the Charter Schools Bill is here. [Posted 5/21/11]

VIrtual Gamble: Steve Bowen, LePage's education commissioner and previous staffer at the Maine Heritage Policy Center, is a big proponent of online learning and virtual charter schools. Currently LD 1533, a bill on charter schools, is being considered in legislative committee.

Think about it for thirty seconds and the pieces start to fall into place: eliminate collective bargaining for Maine teachers; pass a charter school bill; bring in corporate charter schools that offer online learning; (see NH and Florida examples); and also allow formation of other specialty charter schools that are exempt from all state requirements.

The result: simultaneously save the state money; reduce the tax burden; reduce the size of state government; increase corporate profits; please corporate interests; please parents who currently send their children to private schools; please religious conservatives; allow the more privileged (those with high speed internet and parental support) to continue unimpeded to get a high quality primary and secondary education; significantly de-fund and remove support for the education of the less privileged; and in that sense give up on the idea of equal and free access to education for all.

The Charter Schools Bill is being taken up in committee this Friday. Not sure if the meeting is open to the public. You can send a letter to the committee using this address. Edgar Allen Beem's powerful editorial on virtual charter schools is here. A BDN article (be sure to read comment thread below) on charter schools is here. The Maine Heritage Policy Center position on charter schools is outlined here. Our letter to the charter school committee is here. [Posted 5/18/11]

Charter Schools -- What’s Not to Like?  At first glance, changing state law to allow charter schools seem like a great idea at best and a harmless one at worst. Charter schools provide educational choice.  They foster innovation and competition.  Charter schools are popular among parents.  At least some charter schools have been successful in raising test scores.  Charter schools don’t cost us anything more than public schools -- or do they?

One principle of charter schools is that the money follows the students.  For example, if a local high school loses 50 students to a charter school, the high school loses that amount of state and local funding.  The public school cuts programs to make up for the loss of revenues --- and the students remaining behind are shortchanged.  Especially in  rural areas where school enrollments are low and declining, diverting education dollars to charter schools will create a two-tier education system (privileged and less privileged) and make it more difficult to improve our public schools.

Gov. LePage and his education commissioner Steve Bowen are big proponents of charter schools.  Tomorrow I’ll highlight some alarming aspects of their bill which is already being discussed in legislative committee. [Posted 5/17/11]

Shock, Awe,& Obfuscation: 3 different bills curbing access to abortions, a proposal to dissolve LURC and open 3 million acres of the Northern Maine Woods up to development, a plan to terminate a 50-year legacy of providing funding for MPBN, a bill proposing public funding of Charter Schools, and a bill deregulating health insurance are all swirling around Augusta. Think anyone including our legislators have time to digest it all? For the rest of us who have day jobs, the pace and ruthlessness of change is mind-numbing -- as, very likely, it is intended to be. [Posted 5/16/11]

Anyone See a Pattern Here? No time to read the 30-page health insurance bill.  Oh well, pass it anyway.  That mural, we took it away in the middle of the night.  That charter schools bill?  We're introducing a 26-page amendment that replaces the original on the day of the hearing, but we would like you all to approve it.  Ask questions and we will call you a socialist.   And oh, MPBN, they are socialists too.  We knew we were going to deep-six the funding for that months ago.  But then we did a last minute swap by adding back in the Clean Elections Funding and taking the MPBN funding out.  Suckers!  Then we put up a poll on our own official Facebook page asking if MPBN should be funded.  Turns out those 61%'ers got wind of the poll and it was running 2 to 1 in support of MPBN and against us..  So we got rid of the poll.  It disappeared.  This is people before politics, Lepage style! [Posted 5/16/11]

Commentary: Want to bet LePage was going to cut MPBN all along? He announced last Wednesday, far into the budget process, that funding for Clean Elections was being restored and MPBN was being cut, well knowing that if he had announced the cut for MPBN weeks or months ago a public firestorm not unlike the one about the mural would have developed. MPBN's own coverage of the last minute funding swap that falsely pits clean elections vs. the public broadcasting system is here. [Posted 5/16/11]

Headline: "Report: State taxes least on business investments" (PPH, 4/15/11). A new study gives Maine the nation's #1 ranking for lowest effective taxes on new investments. LePage spokesperson Adrienne Bennett states the governor isn't taking stock in the report, preferring to listen to the business owners he talks to. However, instead of pooh-poohing it, some are already using the report to bring more business to the state. [Posted 5/15/11]

Commentary: Critics claim that MPBN should not receive public funds because it is too liberal. Does anyone think there was or is a conspiracy only to hire left-leaning people at MPBN? If MPBN has more liberals than conservatives in its employ, it is probably more a process of self-selection. Public broadcasting ought to be, by principle, representative of all different aspects of society. Employees of public broadcasting, therefore, are people who are interested in all aspects of society. How likely is it to see a conservative taking a low-paying job that involves doing stories on religious ceremonies conducted by Penobscot Indians, Eastern Maine blueberry rakers, Somalis in Lewiston, welfare moms in Portland, and skateboarders in Bangor? That would be a rare conservative, I would think. [Posted 5/12/11]

Headline: "LePage budget puts MPBN on chopping block" (BDN, 5/11/11). 2.00 per person ($7.00 per family of 4) -- that's what it is costing us. .0003% of the state budget -- that is what it amounts to. Especially in these times, we need the radio and television programming MBPN provides. Lots of those contemplating moving to our state might think otherwise if you remove the dash of culture and connectivity provided by MPBN. [Posted 5/11/11].

LD 1333; Someone's Lying Here: Paul LePage weekly radio address 5/7/11: "Another claim is that the bill will force the sick and elderly to pay higher rates. Again, not true. This legislation is based on the Idaho health insurance model, which guarantees access to all individuals, and cannot charge different premiums based on health, just like current Maine law." Portland Press Herald 5/11/11: "The bill would give insurance companies more leeway in how much they can charge policyholders based on age and place of residence." Who do you believe? Perhaps a sign that this bill is not the no-brainer LePage has claimed it to be in that several Republican senators requested more time to review it. [Posted 5/11/11].

Fact of the Day: Projected budget shortfall over the next two years -- $164 million. Amount budget shortfall can be reduced if proposed tax breaks for those earning more than $119,000 are eliminated (or postponed several years) -- $100 million. [Posted 5/9/11].

Attack on Workers More than Symbolic:
If we were appalled when he took down the labor mural, we should be more appalled this week, as LePage promoted policies that hurt actual workers. Day care workers, loggers, self-employed rural Mainers are among the recent targets of LePage policy hits.

Philip Congdon would say it is because they lack sufficient intelligence, but state Democrats are pretty much universally opposed to LD 1333, a bill that will reduce health insurance consumer protections. According to Democrats, the bill will result in higher health insurance rates for those with pre-existing conditions, rural Mainers, the middle aged, and the elderly. Update: MECEP has a new fact sheet on LD 1333.

Meanwhile, as LePage searches for more ways to make up for budget shortfalls, the estate tax and other tax breaks for the wealthy remain untouched. LePage speaks of shared sacrifice, but in what way, exactly, are the wealthy sharing in this sacrifice? [Posted 5/8/11].

LePage's Disapproval Rating Increases by 18%: According to a MaineToday Media poll (PPH, 5/8/11), 56 percent of Maine people have an unfavorable opinion of LePage; 39 percent said have a favorable opinion of him, and about 5 percent are unsure. Even among those who voted for him, support for LePage seems to be slipping. Of those who voted for LePage in November, 24% either would not vote for him again or are unsure if they would vote for him again. A competing poll from the conservative group, People Before Politics, showing a higher level of support for LePage's policies is deconstructed by Dirigo Blue here. [Posted 5/8/11].

Childcare Provider Union Under Attack: LePage's budget revisions this week include elimination of existing collective bargaining rights for family care providers (22 MRSA §8308), enacted in 2007. According to Dirigo Blue, "Almost 2,200 providers voted to create a union in October 2007, under the auspices of the SEIU." This proposal doesn't save any money in the budget, and it is hard to figure out why anyone would support it. Those childcare workers making too much money? Extorting thousands from corporate executives? It does seem to pave the way to bring in one of those for-profit social services corporations (such as Maximus) that donated to LePage's campaign. [Posted 5/7/11]. 5/9 Update: Dirigo Blue analysis.

LePage proposes eliminating Clean Elections for gubernatorial races, and larger donations (Dirigo Blue, 5/6/11). LePage is also proposing the limits on contributions be increased. Some history on the issue is provided here. Maine's Clean Elections funds haven't been particularly instrumental in gubernatorial races and LePage is using that fact to eliminate the fund. But given the vast and growing influence of big money in politics, maybe we should be improving the Clean Elections system rather than scrapping it. [Posted 5/7/11].

Maine’s projected red ink grows by $94 million (BDN, 5/3/11).Important to note that calling the $94 million a loss is using the term loosely. It is a only a loss in anticipated savings to have been achieved through proposed cuts that were a bad idea in the first place. The state never had that $94 million to begin with. It was a fiction -- and a bad fiction at that. But they are getting some good press out of it and creating just the climate necessary to get the public crying for blood. [Posted 5/3/11].

In his weekly Saturday radio address, Paul LePage invited Mainers who had ever encountered governmental red tape while setting up a or expanding a business to call a new hotline set up for the purpose of identifying and ultimately eliminating said red tape.

Fair enough.  Undoubtedly there are government regulations that do hinder business growth.  Undoubtedly LePage will collect all the ammo he needs to justify his war against state regulations of all kinds.  He will get calls from land developers, construction companies, businesses denied permits due to zoning regulations, businesses denied permits due to environmental regulations, businesses that decided not to expand or hire new workers due to the costs of paying workman’s compensation, etc.  

This hotline, however, will only tell half the story.  So it is up to us to tell the other half. Some -- or even most -- government "red tape" exists for a reason.  It protects health.  It protects workers.  It protects the environment.  It protects neighbors.  It protects other businesses.  It protects consumers. Write LePage and ask him to set up another hotline so that he can hear the voices of those who have been protected from loss of health, property value, or money by regulations.  Better yet, call the hotline and offer your stories about how existing zoning, health standards, environmental regulations, or worker protections have been a positive force in your community.   If you have been taken advantage of by a local business or national corporation, let him know that too. The hotline number is 207-624-7486. [Posted 5/2/11].

The Appearance of Repudiation. In the wake of comments so crude and racist that even Philip Congdon said one would have to be "brain dead" to utter them in public, LePage stated, “I do not condone or tolerate the appearance of this type of behavior and I will not accept distractions from my jobs-creation agenda.” Dirigo Blue provides insights into the LePage statement which stopped well short of the repudiation of Congdon's comments that many Maine people were looking for. [Posted 5/1/11].

Silence & Consent: In the wake of revelations that a cabinet member made racist comments in a public speech, LePage defended the vetting process used to hire Congdon, but apparently said little else besides, "Let's move on." There is a glaring omission here. The expected thing would be for LePage to publicly repudiate the offensive public comments and to state that they do not reflect the views of his administration, the Dept. of Economic Development, and the people of Maine. [Update here].

Congdon's offensive remarks were not made in private while he was "off-duty." They never were a secret; he has not publicly apologized for them.

Where's the tough talk now, Paul LePage? Tell Congdon to lug his sorry butt back to Texas. Tell him if he stays in Maine he ought to do six months of community service on a reservation and another six months working with Somili children in Lewiston.

Seems like it would have been easy enough for LePage to make some conciliatory comments today while defending his own vetting process. If LePage remains silent on this, we can conclude that at least one of the following is true: (1) LePage has no clue about that making a statement would not only be decent but also politically beneficial; (2) he just wants to sweep the whole thing under the rug (too late for that, ya think?); (3) his loyalty to Congdon is deeper than his aversion to Congdon's remarks; or (4) he personally doesn't think the things Congdon said were offensive. [Posted 4/29/11].

Brain Drain Continues: ". . . Major Changes Announced Among LePage's Top Staff," LePage's top economic advisor has resigned amidst allegations or racist comments. A second cabinet member is being transferred due to being called out by the attorney general for conflict of interest, and a third has resigned without stating a reason. (Can you say, "Abandon ship?"). #f brains drained -- 5 & counting. Last week it was Dan Demeritt. Who is next? [Posted 4/28/11].

Fact of the Day: 2.85%. That's the portion of the Maine state budget that goes into pension contributions in a given year. So even if you were to cut the state's portion by 33%, you would impact the state budget by less than 1%. Not quite the cash cow that LePage and others are making it out to be. It's not fair to solve the state's financial problems on the backs of state workers. Equally importantly, you won't be able to, even if you try. More facts on the state of the pension system here and here.

Headline: "Republicans Seek to Simplify State Taxes . . . (BDN, 4/18/11). Simple does not mean fair. This is a critical time in the debate about taxes. Maine citizens, please get informed and contact your legislators!

Drowning or Lying? Dirigo Blue provides video documentation and commentary of some of the misinformation LePage provided at the Topsham town meeting last week. Overall, Dirigo Blue's coverage shows a man who has little grasp of the details of the changes he is promoting. Either that or he is a shameless liar. For example, he significantly misrepresents the Child Labor bill and repeats a false claim that Mainer workers can be forced to join a union

In the case of the Child Labor Bill, LePage stated the training period was 9 days, when if fact the bill would allow employers to hire teen workers at well below the minimum wage for 180 days. Our commentary on the LePage's claim that unions are infringing on the Constitutional rights of Maine workers is here. Write LePage and let him know you notice it when he doesn't tell the truth.

Word of Mouth:
The trip had been planned a for a long time and it was a family tradition. This is what Paul LePage told us "pre-vacation." More recently, he told us he went on vacation because the legislature wasn't doing it's job and he therefore had "nothing to do." While on vacation, he issued a press release praising the legislature for their work. On his return, he criticized the legislature, saying it hasn't done "a damn thing." Next time LePage opens his mouth, is there any reason for us to believe him?

Mean-spirited is what we would generally say about someone whose sense of humor always seems to require criticism of others. In a recent speech, LePage used the term "loyal opposition," simultaneously slamming Democrats (sarcasm toward the opposition) and Republicans (who haven't been very loyal). In a speech to a chamber of commerce a few days earlier, LePage joked that there were a few people in Augusta he would like to see "extracted." Haha, Paul. Very funny. But humor usually works better when you don't literally mean it -- and when you direct at least some of it toward yourself.

Poll Results: It's not the insults, stupid! LePage supporters are willing to forgive his "straight-talk" and verbal gaffes and believe the public and media should give LePage a break. But that's not what bothers people about LePage. Our recent poll shows that 40% are most troubled by LePage's policies, followed by 29% who are most troubled by his refusal to participate in dialogue. Only 23% state that what troubles them most about LePage are his controversial remarks. 294 people responded to our poll. Our new poll is now up.

The LePage Budget -- Ten Things Sure to Appall.

News:  Republican OpEd Critical of LePage. Even conservatives are backing away.

Expensive Move: "Labor Dept. Steps into Mural Dispute, Demands Refund." The US Dept. of Labor sent a letter to LePage, requesting $37,800.00 reimbursement on the grant that funded the mural. This is in addition to a federal lawsuit that was filed last week. (BDN, 4/4/11)

Thought for the Week: If we aren't outraged by the proposed budget, we should be. In light of that, we'll be posting 10 appalling things about the Paul LePage budget in 10 days.

Commentary: Alternative Solutions to Pension Crisis (Times Record, 3/10/11)
Letter to the Editor: "Beware the Anger"
(Sun Journal, 4/3/11).

Headline: "GOP Senators Express Dismay with LePage"
(PPH, 4/1/11). Eight Republican Senators to openly criticize LePage in a Op-Ed column that will appear in major Maine newspapers on Monday. Wow. I guess conservatives can't say that those of us who have been critical of LePage are overreacting anymore.

Letter to the Editor: "Honoring Frances Perkins" (NYT, 3/29/11). The mural will have a new home, says LePage. But how will the memories of Frances Perkins and the other Maine residents whose names have been removed from conference rooms be preserved. Write your Governor and ask this question: "What you you doing, Governor, to mitigate the "erasure" of this historic woman from the Dept. of Labor?"

Editorial: "Maine Voices: State retirement system 'crisis' a figment of alarmist imagination" (Portland Press Herald, 3/18/11) This editorial argues that the crisis is a manufactured one and that the retirement system is in better shape now that at almost any time in recent history.

Editorial: "LePage in Wonderland" (BDN, 2/28/11). Clears up some of the myths about the teachers retirement system in Maine. [Read more news.]
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