Archive for July 2nd, 2013

Governor LePage’s Mulligan

Posted on July 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

paul jebOriginally posted Jun 27 and now bumped back to top, as news has come out tonight that Maine’s self-proclaimed “blue collar” Governor Paul LePage, who last week denounced the state’s “country club Legislature” and said that he would be discussing options with his family regarding whether or not to run for re-election, announced before a hundred supporters at the posh Jeb Bush hosted, up to $3k per couple Nonantum Resort, Kennebunkport fundraiser that he is indeed running for re-election in 2014.

(Video link here, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow a few weeks’ ago had something to say regarding Jeb Bush’s decision to hold this fundraiser. She also took the matter up again on this evening’s show.)

It should be noted that the task of informing the world of this decision came not by press release nor traditional local Maine media, but rather fell to State Senator Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) to deliver the news second-hand to the world, as Maine’s most transparent Governor instructed his senior political advisor Brent Littlefield to issue the following reminding email to Maine media late this afternoon:

    “Just a quick email reminder that tonight’s LePage event in Kennebunkport is closed press.

    There are no press avails before or after the event.

    Brent Littlefield, Senior Political Adviser to Governor LePage”

augusta cc

    mul·li·gan
    /ˈməligən/
    Noun

    1. A stew made from odds and ends of food.

    2. (in informal golf) An extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard.

—–

UPDATED with earlier portion of the press conference that I missed; many thanks to PPH’s Steve Mistler.

UPDATE x2: Friday’s Portland Press Herald is chock-full of scathing missives today in Letters to the Editor: Governor disrespects people he serves.

—–

Yesterday after the House (114-34) and Senate (26-9) delivered crushing blows to Governor LePage’s veto of LD 1509, the FY 14-15 fiscal budget bill and in doing so avoided the first statewide government shutdown in over twenty years, the governor held a press conference in which he was a far, far more subdued man than just last week:

Via Steve Mistler, this earlier portion of the press conference:

    “I’m very disappointed on this budget. Until we start understanding what makes an economy drive and why the southeast and the southwest and the Atlantic states have such good economies, until we emulate some of their behaviors we are not going to be anywheres but 50th place in the country for doing business.”

    “It’s a real sad day for the state of Maine. We took, I thought, with the 125th Legislature, that we took two steps forward for the state. Today, I think we took three steps back. I really feel bad for today.”

While admittedly not a complete version of the Governor’s press conference (full audio here), the above was almost 15 minutes’ worth of it and many of Maine’s various media were in attendance, including reporters from formerly access denied Portland Press Herald:

    In an impromptu news conference right after Wednesday’s final override vote in the Senate, LePage reacted calmly, but strongly. He criticized Republicans and Democrats alike for a plan that “solidified our place as the 50th worst place to do business for the foreseeable future.”

    He said the Legislature is a “country club” where lawmakers are more interested in getting along with each other than with him.

Paul LePageAs Lewiston Sun Journal reported, LePage said he was considering his options:

    LePage said he would be consulting more with his family before deciding whether he would seek a second term as governor.

    I am going to be meeting with my family at some point and we are going to be talking it over,”
    LePage said. “Quite frankly, I don’t know how you recover from this. I really don’t know how you recover from a tax increase. This is a giant obstacle. It’s like having a giant hole in the bottom of your ship and you are trying to get across the pond.”

During the press conference, the Governor repeatedly called his originally submitted budget “a good budget” (so good that the silence from his caucus’ after the State of the State address was deafening) and repeatedly backtracked on his 2009 stance regarding revenue sharing.

To review the clip of 2009 Waterville Mayor Paul LePage denouncing revenue sharing cuts to his then-city:

LePage was critical of the Democrats in leadership who would not talk to him about the budget, again called out the Appropriations Committee for not allowing him to speak on mic, in particular the Republicans on the committee and then called out House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) as “having not been around” to talk with or had been “unwilling to talk to me”, that the Republican Party is not a strong one currently in Maine, and was unaware that the energy omnibus bill that he had vetoed had been overturned in the House and heading for the Senate.

It needs to be noted that while many communities denounced the Governor’s budget, not a single one even attempted to pass a resolution supporting LePage, a point raised by Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Cumberland) during this week’s Democratic leadership media availability event.

But apparently the coverage was not sufficient for the Governor, as he decided to declare yesterday’s disaster a “mulligan” and try again to explain himself to the Maine people, today going before the camera once more, with his office releasing the following footage this afternoon.

Roll the clip:

From the accompanying press release:

    Governor Paul R. LePage speaks out about why he could not support the Legislature’s budget, which included tax increases, in a new video released by the Office of the Governor.

    In the five-minute video, the Governor shares his thoughts about how higher taxes will affect Mainers and condemns decreased funding to programs like Jobs for Maine Graduates.

    In the video, he notes that tax increases will have a devastating effect on the elderly and Mainers who live within their own budgets. Sales, meals and lodging taxes will be increased to fund the state budget.

      “Retired mill workers living on fixed incomes; elderly widows collecting Social Security; and our veterans, who receive nothing more than their military pension—each of them care about this tax increase,” Governor LePage said.

      “We are already one of the highest taxed states in the nation. We have some of the lowest per capita income in the country. Now is not the time to ask Mainers to give more to fund government… For some legislators, it was more important to count votes and reject my proposals than do what is right for our citizens.”

      “Maine people deserve a considered, reasoned debate, and they will hold legislators responsible for their decisions… It is time to look past the next election and look forward to the next generation.”

    This sort of passive-aggressive communication by Maine’s Chief Executive brings back memories of the inexplicable and strange video released in last January, as former CBS reporter now LePage staffer Adrienne Bennett displayed a remarkable lack of journalistic integrity by “interviewing” the governor:

    Harder thrown pitches than these can be seen at a playground Whiffle ball game… Now, I love a good train wreck sort of news story as much as the next person, but this is just getting sad.

    In his opening statement, The Governor claims “not to be a politician and be a blue collar governor”. Gotta call a 1 stroke penalty for this one!

      Ann LePage:“He was what my dad always called a ‘white collar. My dad said, ‘Ann, for god’s sake, he’s a white collar. He doesn’t know how to work.’”

    LePage garners another stroke regarding the claims that the sales tax on meals and lodging will affect Maine businesses. Watch this from Rep. Jethro Pease (R-Morrill) from yesterday:

    Rep. Kim Monaghan-Derrig (D-Cape Elizabeth) agreed:

    And it goes downhill from there, enough so that Bangor Daily News shared Governor LePage’s “Mulligan” as part of a larger piece, asking “Does Governor LePage Still Matter?”

    Ouch.

    Then there is this: “Gov. LePage’s recent actions cry out for an intervention”.

    And this in the PPH. Maine Voices: Assistant GOP leader: Governor’s behavior sets unfortunate tone in Augusta
    .

    That one by Senate Assistant Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) even made it into the Washington Post: Top Maine Republican legislator: ‘I am embarrassed’ by LePage.

    Heh. Wonder how Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) feels about that (“Top Republican”) interesting mistype?

    An argument could possibly be made that the Governor sees himself as having a “Tin Cup” moment, but the reality here is indeed something entirely different.

    Time to sign your card and call it a day, Governor…

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2011 Blasts From the Past: Maine State Workers’ Rally in Augusta; LePage, NYC Lawyer Walks Out Of MSEA-SEIU Contract Negotiations

Posted on July 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Maine state employees protest in 2011

Maine state employees protest in 2011

Today Governor LePage’s office sent the following missive to Maine state employees within the executive branch.

It smacks of blaming the Legislature, MSEA-SEIU or both as being to fault for those employees not yet receiving their merit raises. The reality in speaking with the union’s leadership recently, is that the Governor himself has been the one who has been reluctant to meet with the union and as such, appears to be passively aggressively using the employees to force the union to agree to his demands.

He clearly states his position: “While I am just as eager to reach an agreement with MSEA as I was with our other three unions, I will do so only in a way that is beneficial to the State.

Which is to say that it’s his way or no way at all.

See for yourself.

=================================

    From: McGough, John
    Sent: Tuesday, July 02, 2013 2:27 PM
    Subject: Message from the Governor on Merit Pay

    The following message has been sent to you on behalf of Governor Paul R. LePage.

    ——————————–

    Dear Executive Branch Employee:

    As you probably know, the Legislature recently passed a bill that will allow the State to pay merit increases to eligible employees on their anniversary dates. However, there is something you may not realize.

    Despite the Legislature “unfreezing” merit pay, these increases may not be awarded to some employees. After union contracts expire, state labor law legally prohibits me from authorizing merit increases for employees represented by a union without a new agreement with that union.

    Three of the state’s employee unions have reached more than one agreement with the State during my administration: AFSCME, the Maine State Troopers Association and the Maine State Law Enforcement Association. I am pleased that current negotiations have led to AFSCME’s ratification of a 2013-2015 contract. AFSCME employees who are eligible for merit increases this year will receive them. Our negotiations have also led to tentative two-year agreements with MSTA and MSLEA. If those contracts are ratified, the union members who are eligible for merit increases will receive them.

    However, we have been negotiating with MSEA for a successor to the 2009-2011 agreement for over two years. While I am just as eager to reach an agreement with MSEA as I was with our other three unions, I will do so only in a way that is beneficial to the State. Many of you have received communications from MSEA suggesting that its members may not receive merit increases and if that happens, then it is my fault. These communications also claim that all governors before me have paid merit increases whether there are contracts in effect or not. Both of these claims are misleading at best.

    If you are eligible for a merit increase and are in a bargaining unit that does not have a current contract, I urge you to contact your union representatives and explore with them how they might reach an agreement so you can receive your merit increase during this coming year.

    Lastly, there is another important issue you should be aware of. Although the Legislature “unfroze” merit increases for the State’s Executive Branch employees for one year, it restored them for employees of the Legislative and Judicial Branches for the next twoyears. As you may know, the Legislature and I did not agree on the best approach to the budget. But I am dismayed by the Legislature’s unabashed willingness to treat its own employees and those of the Judicial Branch better than they treat you.

    I know that you work just as hard at your jobs, and you do not deserve to be treated worse than employees in the other two branches of government. When the Legislature is not in session, employees in the legislative branch have far less work to do, but Executive Branch employees carry a full workload all year long. I intend to do whatever I can to remedy this shameless inequity.

    Sincerely,

    Paul R. LePage
    Governor

=================================

So let’s look back, shall we?

First we have this, originally posted 27 Jun 2011.

From the MSEA-SEIU press release:

      Maine Workers Rally At State House; Call on Governor to Stop Attacks on Workers and Send Home New York City Lawyer

    Firefighters, teachers, millworkers, child care providers, snow plow drivers and other workers from across Maine converged on the State House on Saturday to show their support for state workers currently in contract negotiations with the LePage administration. Despite predictions of bad weather, hundreds turned out for a rally at the capitol.

Jonathan French of MDOT started off the rally:

    “What I see when I look out at all of you is the very fabric of our communities. Because of you, Maine is a place where our kids can learn and grow, where our roads are safe, where our communities and natural resources are protected, and where we are working together to build our economy. You make Maine a better place for all of us. Once again, workers have stepped up and offered to do our share. But instead of sitting down with us directly and talking about how we can work together, Governor LePage has chosen to create more conflict and pick yet another fight with Maine workers by bringing in a hatchet man from New York City.

    So while Maine workers have proposed no cost increases, the Governor is paying a New York City lawyer at least $295 an hour to dismantle workers’ rights and core protections. This is not only irresponsible; it’s not how we treat each other in Maine.”

Emery Deabay, Vice President of Eastern Maine Labor Council, member of United Steelworkers Local #1188 and employed at the Versco paper Mill in Bucksport, spoke next.

    “Whether you’re from Caribou or Kittery, or somewhere in between, no matter where you live, Maine DOT workers work for everyone. We keep Maine moving. 

    If a tree goes down, or if there’s a washout, 2 feet of snow, freezing rain, anything that gets in the way of safe passage of a Maine highway or bridge, Maine DOP workers are there in a moment’s notice to fix things and make them right. When a DOT plow truck goes by during a nor’easter, everyone knows they’ll be back to their normal routine in no time at all. Everyone knows that the hardworking men and women at the Maine DOT and our brothers and sisters at the Maine Turnpike Authority are the best at what they do. And it’s a good thing we are the best- living in a state like Maine, right?

    With the Maine DOT, every inch of Maine highway is maintained to the same specifications. In my DOT region, which covers a quarter of the state, over the years we’ve gone from 400 people taking care of the roads to 168 workers. That’s a pretty tight crew to cover such a huge part of our state. We’re efficient. We’re accountable..

    And we’re working at hourly wages much lower than what the private sector pays for the same work. That’s just a plain fact. It was documented in a labor market survey that the State of Maine recently paid over $50,000 to conduct. You know, they could have saved that money just by talking to a DOT worker.”

MDOT Milo Crew Leader Tony Gonzales:

    “My coworkers at Maine DHHS and I work hand in hand with Maine families, community leaders, and community organizations to help keep all Maine families safe, all Maine families together, and all of our communities strong. This is critically important work, because with a strong family foundation and community support, all Maine children will have the opportunity to make the most of their abilities as they pursue their dreams and help make this world a better place for all of us. Our ability to have a voice in determining issues like our working conditions is central to our ability to work as public servants with the highest levels of accountability.

    So I am here today to thank you for the support for the work that we do. I am also here to show my support for the work that all of you do. I’m showing my support because all Maine workers make our communities strong. All Maine workers make our economy strong. And all Maine workers deserve to be treated with respect for the work that they do.”

Maine DHHS case worker, MSEA-SEIU Local #1989 member Dean Staffieri:

    “I understand the very tough financial challenges so many Maine people are facing. We are all making sacrifices and I know our local leaders are struggling to maintain staffing levels that will keep our schools and public safety systems strong. And I think I can speak for every parent here when I say how important it is to be part of a community where we work together and support each other- where our kids can get a good education and where our families are supported and safe. That is what this country, and especially Maine, are all about.

    So what I don’t understand is why the Governor has made it his personal mission to undercut hard-working Maine families like mine. This isn’t the Maine I grew up in. This isn’t the Maine where we use common sense and fairness to solve problems. This isn’t the Maine where everyone gets a shot at living the American dream.

    The Governor’s attacks on working people are taking this state in the wrong direction. It’s time to re-knit the tears in our community fabric and start working together again.”

Maine Department of Corrections’ Kelly Carr:

Conclusion by Jonathan French:

And then there is this 1 Jul 2011 story:

    LePage, NYC Lawyer Walks Out of MSEA-SEIU Contract Negotiations

    Dirigo Blue broke the story this morning

    After 6 straight days of negotiations over a new contract, representatives for Gov. LePage walked out of contract talks last night at 11:40 p.m.
    The contract between the State and its 10,000 employees expired at midnight.From a press release, one union negotiating team member, Andrea LaPointe, an employee at the DEP, had this:

    “The Governor has proposed cutting wages for workers who protect our communities from dangerous criminals in our prison system and for workers who care for patients with severe mental health disorders in our state mental health institutions. We are ready to settle this contract and we truly hope that our Governor is ready as well.
    There is an “evergreen” provision in which the current contract remains in effect for 90 days, along time for further negotiations.”

    From Bangor Daily News:

     

    Negotiations ended just before midnight with MSEA offering a two-year extension on the current terms and the state countering with a one-year extension under different terms. One of the outstanding issues is compensation for workers engaged in union activities.

    The Maine Democratic Party issued the following press release:

     

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:LePage Walks Out of Contract Negotiations

    “Governor LePage and his New York City lawyer need to stop dragging their feet and get the job done.”

    AUGUSTA- On June 30th, Governor Paul LePage and his New York lawyer walked out of contract negotiations with the state employees union, just as workers were ready to make an agreement.

    Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant released this statement:

    “This is a classic example of Governor LePage’s ‘my way or the highway attitude.’ He didn’t think he was going to get what he wanted, so like a frustrated child he took his ball and went home – all the while he’s costing taxpayers more money. In one month we’ve paid his lawyers $50,000 – that’s more than most Maine workers make in a year.”

    “He has shown a complete lack of respect and disregard for Maine workers since he took office. Last night’s walk out was the latest in a continual stream of attacks. First it was the budget, then it was fair share, now it’s contract negotiations, he just won’t give up.

    “Governor LePage and his New York City lawyer need to stop dragging their feet and get the job done. The state employees are ready to bargain – why isn’t he?”

And now we wait to see what happens next.

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