UPDATE: More information regarding the second Wednesday rally has been provided by one of the organizers, via Facebook.
“Alliance for the Common Good Rally of Unity
Wednesday, January 6, 2016 (first day of the new legislative session), 1-4 PM
Hall of Flags, State Capitol, Augusta
Bring: signs (but not on sticks so you can get thru security), information to distribute or put on tables, and ideas to add to a speak out that is part of the afternoon events.
What are your concerns about what the state of Maine should be doing and the directions it should be going in?
What do our legislators need to hear from the public?
These were last year’s primary points of unity (which are ones again this year):
Respect for community sovereignty.
An economy that protects our environment.
Reserving Maine money for Maine people.
Keeping money out of politics.
Some issues we will likely address there:
*Paul LePage’s actions against Mark Eves that may be grounds for impeachment
*Renewed attempts to have more people covered by MaineCare
*November referenda on raising the minimum wage, rank choice voting, marijuana use, and more
*State of Maine’s campaign to take away more of the Penobscot Nation’s sovereignty
Please come and be part of the Alliance for the Common Good’s Fourth annual Rally of Unity.”
Happy 2016! As promised, I will be attempting to sit down at the keyboard every Friday to summarize what has transpired in the past week and give a preview of what to expect next week. (The classic AP Stylebook be darned, btw- going to use my own, um, unorthodox “AP” rules of engagement!)
So with that in mind, here goes nothing!
WEEK IN REVIEW: Just a few quick items for this between holidays, look-back edition.
- 1. The first one is SUCH a goody and relevant to the Christmas season. Ah, sometimes the Governor is simply the gift that keeps on giving!
- It’s not clear which members of the House of Representatives got stiffed, but we do know that House leaders did receive copies of the book.
“We only had 80 (copies) — very simple,” LePage said.
Many of the people contacted by WMTW News 8 about this story did not want their names attached to this story out of fear of retribution from the Governor’s Office.
Interesting, in light of the ongoing Eves/ Good Will-Hinckley situation, that simply reporting “a fear of retribution from LePage” is taken as a given.
Later, the chief executive took to Twitter to scold Maine media:
Foolish media. The book wasn't about 1 issue, rather how politicians are distracted by wrong solutions in order to be PC #mepolitics
— Paul R. LePage (@Governor_LePage) December 31, 2015
Maybe the governor should have dragged the “Piggy Christmas Tree” out of the mothballs? That one was such a crowd pleaser!
2. 128th Legislative candidate filings are coming in and being posted online. Link here.
NEXT WEEK’S SNEAK PEEK:
- 1. Monday, 1/4/16: Maine youngsters go back to school after winter break as parents across the state rejoice (“… and Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again”).
2. Tuesday, 1/5/16 (10a-5p): While the Legislature doesn’t officially come back until Wednesday the 6th, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee (AFA) will be conducting a public hearing the day before regarding LR 2599, “An Act To Combat Drug Addiction Throught Enforcement, Treatment and Recovery” (AUDIO LINK HERE).
3. Wednesday, 1/6/16: The House and Senate come back into the second half of the 127th Legislative Session at 10 am (which anyone with experience in Augusta will know that while many ringing bells will echo in the hallways, they won’t actually start for at least a half hour later than that).
But one event that WILL happen as scheduled will be an 11am “State House Rally To Impeach Paul LePage” outside the State House, just under the governor’s second floor windows. The same group rallied in June 2015.
Since June, the group has garnered over 20k signatures on a petition calling for the governor to resign.
Later the same day, a group called “Alliance For The Common Good Unity” plan to rally as well. On Facebook, the organizers state they are gathering at 1pm, but they are listed as meeting at 2pm in the Hall of Flags.
4. Thursday, 1/7/16: The legislature is in session and the Environmental Priorities Coalition will meet from 11:30-12:30 in State House (SH) Room 334 to issue a briefing on land conservation.
5. Friday, 1/8/16 (9a- ?): Government Oversight Committee (GOC) meets. Among the “Unfinished Business” agenda items is this one of note:
OPEGA Information Brief on State Funding for Good Will-Hinckley
– Review and Approval of GOC Addendum to OPEGA Report
So, there you have it- the first of what will hopefully be a weekly column of useful info or what have you. Have a great weekend, folks!
~AndiRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
(Originally posted 11 Jun 2013) Last week a press conference was held at the State House’s Welcome Center where leaders from Portland, Lewiston, Auburn, Augusta, Gardiner, Waterville, Sanborn and Bangor addressed the media and voiced concerns regarding the impact Governor LePage’s proposed zero revenue sharing cuts will have on their communities. Dozens more municipalities across the state have sent resolutions and communications to the Legislature protesting the cuts.
Augusta Mayor Bill Stokes said, “Maine communities have already absorbed a 30% cut in revenue sharing. This year, we are receiving just under $98 million, instead of the $140 million we would have received by law. Now there are proposals to cut that by $20 million a year or more. That will mean a significant property tax increase in Augusta.”
“Even the best of these (Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee) proposals means a loss of nearly 50% million to municipalities over the next two years. We have been cutting services and trimming payroll for several years. We simply cannot absorb that kind of cut without raising taxes. Revenue sharing is an obligation, a bill the state should pay.”
She had spoken up the previous evening at a Waterville city council meeting as well, blasting the Governor’s proposal:
“This is really a ridiculous position for all of us to be in,”
- Heck said of the man who was mayor of the city from 2004 until he became governor in 2010.
“When the governor was mayor, clearly he used some profane language to describe exactly what he’s doing to us in a much worse way.”
She continued: “I’m not sure why the governor is interested in making sure hospitals get paid. But the mayors feel that the state needs to pay its bills when it comes to what it’s mandated to pay us in revenue sharing.”
Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett noted that “we have a revenue problem in Maine and we need to look at additional streams of revenue”:
“We are calling on all legislators to commit to preventing this tax shift to the property tax. As we recommended in a letter to the Governor last month, this tax shift can be prevented by some modest shifts to the sales tax. The Mayors Coalition is supportive of proposals that temporarily raise the sales tax to 6% and raise the lodging tax.”
Jonathan Labonte, Mayor of Auburn, who noted that his city has been working to share services with nearby Lewiston for some time now, added that “Eliminating revenue sharing would effectively undermine the state’s 40 year cooperative agreement with municipalities. These are the revenues that keep your property taxes from skyrocketing and help to pay for municipal services such as firefighters, schools and road maintenance.”
Also speaking out were Cathy Conlow (VIDEO), Bangor’s city manager, Maura Herlihy of Sanford and Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett for Mayor Macdonald (VIDEO), who mentioned at length the expensive, multiple fires his city had recently endured:
Mayor of Portland Michael Brennan (VIDEO) concluded by asking, “all legislators to work to prevent a property tax increase in virtually every community in the state.”
(Bonus: Q&A clip)
UPDATE #1: Originally posted in June 2013 and oh, what a difference a year made. In June 2014, Governor Paul LePage selected Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte to serve as Office of Policy and Management director, as outgoing head Richard Rosen had been tapped to temporarily take over at Department of Financial Services for the retiring Sawin Millett.
- The chance to serve the state of Maine and the governor was one he (LaBonte) couldn’t turn down, he said.
“When a governor calls and asks you join their team, that’s a unique opportunity,” LaBonte said.
LaBonte said he did not believe his appointment had anything to do with election-year politics.
“If there’s anything political about this, it is the governor was eager to see this office created and is looking to see works delivered out of it,” LaBonte said.
Yesterday, the LePage administration continued to roll out the governor’s proposed FY 2016/2017 biennial budget as now DAFS Commissioner Richard Rosen, deputy commissioner Dr. Michael Allen and Labonte sat down with Maine media, a day after Rosen presented the budget to the newly seated 127th Legislative Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. This jumps out:
- LaBonte, who also is the director of LePage’s office of policy management, said Wednesday during a briefing with reporters that fears the proposal would decimate municipal finances are overblown.
He said in 2008 revenue sharing only accounted for 5 percent of municipal budgets statewide and that the figure had decreased to 3.5 percent by 2012.
“So revenue sharing is not a large share of those municipal budgets and certainly not a large share of what’s going toward those expenditures,” LaBonte said.
When revenue sharing was first put in place, its intent was to provide property tax relief. Because the funding was directed to municipal government and did not go directly to property owners, they never ultimately benefited, LaBonte said.
On Friday, Governor LePage attempted to minimize the effects of municipal revenue sharing and the impact its removal will have on Maine’s 460 plus cities and towns.
So same as 2013 Governor Paul LePage thought 2009 Mayor LePage wrong* on municipal revenue sharing, apparently 2015 OPM Director/ LePage team player Jonathan Labonte seems to now think that 2013 Auburn Mayor Labonte was making a big deal out of nothing.
UPDATE #2: OPM Director/ Auburn Mayor Labonte has responded via Twitter in an interesting exchange as well as Bangor city councilor Ben Sprague:
When the email is received, it will be shared here. ~AP
UPDATE #3: The February 2013 email exchanges between Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte, members of the Maine Mayor Coalition and legal counsel were shared by Labonte moments ago:
(2/16/15) As Labonte continues to see his own position as not inconsistent, this post is being updated below with more conversations via Twitter today.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Late Friday news dump/ breaking news from Augusta, as Governor LePage vetoed LD 1858,“An Act To Achieve the Savings Required under Part F of the Biennial Budget and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law for Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015” moments ago.
The chairs of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, Senator Dawn Hill (D-York) and Rep. Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston) were quick to denounce the Governor’s decision in an issued joint statement:
- “For the past two years, Governor LePage has made himself irrelevant to the budget process and this veto letter only proves it. He demonstrates a lack of understanding for what this budget does and how government works. In fact, the very thing he calls a “gimmick” is actually a smart solution and it was proposed by members of his own party,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “I am confident this veto will be overridden. Nearly every lawmaker supported this budget and they will stand by their vote and stand up to another one of Governor LePage’s tantrums. It’s time for the people of Maine to have a real leader to work with.”
- Close a $17 million shortfall in the MaineCare program for fiscal year 2015
- Provide $5 million to reduce and eliminate the Department of Health and Human Services’ wait lists for people with disabilities to get home care services
- Increase reimbursement rates for nursing homes by $5 million and provides $2 million for the state’s court ordered mental health consent decree
- Increase funds for safety and security at Riverview Psychiatric Center and Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center
- Invest in key education and workforce training programs, including $650,000 for the Bridge Year program, $300,000 in funding for Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, and $750,000 for Head Start.
The measure was passed unanimously in the Senate with a vote of 35 to 0 and by a vote of 133 to 8 in the House.
“Democrats and Republicans worked collaboratively to craft a responsible and life-changing budget for our most vulnerable people with disabilities and for our seniors,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston the House Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “It’s no surprise to see the Governor veto the bipartisan measure. He has refused to participate in solving the state’s budget problems from day one. If he had items he wanted funded or didn’t like our approach, he should have worked with lawmakers.”
Governor Paul LePage refused to propose a budget despite shortfalls at his Departments, refused to allow his commissioners to provide information to the budget committee in public, and provided inaccurate information on the budget shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services. LePage also never provided a funding source for his drug enforcement plan, which he claims was a top priority.
The $32 million budget would:
Veto letter here:
The bill will now be added with a ever-growing list of others and dealt with by the Legislature on May 1, aka “Veto Day”.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
LD1762 came up again yesterday first in the House, where a slew of amendments were tacked onto the bill and many GOP members standing to speak in opposition to it. One by one, the amendments were indefinitely postponed. Reactions from House Republicans:
- House Republican Leader Ken Fredette’s floor amendment would task the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management with finding spending reductions to equal the $40 million needed for fiscal year 2015.
“The tax expenditure task force, which was responsible for closing this $40 million gap and was stacked with liberals, failed to complete its task,” said Rep. Fredette. “OPM, on the other hand, successfully completed its task of finding $35 million in spending cuts. My amendment would give the job to OPM since the majority Democrats and their task force have proven themselves incapable of balancing the budget in a responsible manner.”
Rep. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) introduced an amendment that would reduce welfare spending as an alternative to raiding the rainy day fund.
“When I talk about reducing the size of state government, some people like to ask me, ‘what, specifically, would you cut?’ as if I won’t have an answer,” said Rep. Lockman on the House floor. “Well, here’s my answer. Here are 25 million answers. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg that is sinking Maine’s economic ship.”
Rep. Wayne Parry (R-Arundel) introduced an amendment to give $7 million in property tax relief directly to needy seniors and pay for it with revenue sharing reductions to municipal government.
“Democrats talk a big game about helping the needy and the elderly, but it’s clear now where their priorities are,” said Rep. Parry.
Rep. Dean Cray (R-Palmyra) had a very specific spending cut alternative to raiding Maine’s rainy day fund. His amendment proposed eliminating green energy subsidies to replace $14 million in reductions to the rainy day fund.
For some context on the amendments and those offering them:
- The cuts Rep. Fredette referred to via OPM were detailed in this earlier post from last fall and include cuts such as $1 million for vaccinations and $500k to Head Start, as well as many cuts to the Department of Corrections.
- Rep. Lockman’s amendment would have taken another $25 million from DHHS’ ever-changing budget requirements. It is very challenging to view his proposal seriously, as he earlier was one of a group of Republicans who, unhappy with the LePage budget and its cuts to revenue sharing, held a press conference at the State House to present their own budget alternative:
At the 4:00 mark, Lockman discusses new taxes to be levied against Maine’s wealthiest non-profits, but relabels them creatively as “fair share recycling fees”. One wonders how Maine’s largest hospitals and colleges, which top the list of the state’s wealthiest nonprofits, would react to such “fees”?
- Rep. Parry’s amendment would still not address the municipal shortages of the communities tasked with providing services such as police, fire and public works to the very senior and needy citizens that his proposal was supposedly aimed to help. A reminder: Recently as many as 100 municipalities were represented at a public hearing regarding this bill and spoke of the harm that revenue sharing was doing to their communities.
- As for Rep. Cray’s offering… let’s just say that “renewable energy” will never be an honest focus of the LePage administration.
Ultimately the original bill passed under the hammer (ie, no second roll call vote) and went immediately to the Senate. And there something interesting happened…
The Senate voted to pass the bill by a 33-2 margin, with the only two voting against, Senators Pat Flood and Dick Woodbury, having already declared that neither was running for re-election. Via Senate Democrat press release, here are statements from some of the members:
- Senate President Justin Alfond: “Towns across our state have financially stretched budgets. They came to us with a problem that needed to be solved. Towns across our state, regardless of political affiliation, wholeheartedly support this measure because they know the state should and must keep its promise. In this business, you have to stand up and be accountable to the property taxpayers of your town. Passing this measure and keeping our promise is the responsible thing to do.”
Senator Dawn Hill, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee and LD 1762 co-sponsor:
“Last year we all worked across the aisle to make a promise to our towns; we pledged our best effort. We made a promise to towns to ensure good schools, police to ensure safety, and skilled firefighters. Now is not the time to upend all of that work. Restoring these funds will ensure our towns don’t have to raise property taxes or further reduce essential services like public safety or education, or do both.”
Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson: “Once again, Governor LePage is threatening to hold Maine’s economy hostage if he doesn’t get his way. Today, the Senate sent a message that we will not be held hostage. We will stand up for our towns and cities and keep our funding promise.”
In December, Governor Paul LePage outraged many by labeling revenue sharing as “welfare” , a position he did not take as Waterville’s mayor in 2009. While LePage has indicated that he would either veto the bill or hold hostage $100 million in voter-approved bonds meant to pay for infrastructure projects were LD 1762 to pass, there has been no word yet from the second floor as to what comes next.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Weekly Democratic Address by Senator Dawn Hill (York): Dems Working Across Aisle To Keep State’s Promise to Towns
(NOTE: All stresses and links within the address below are mine and not as sent out to media. ~AP)
Audio link here:
- Are your streets plowed, paved?
- Do you have sidewalks?
- Are there street lights directing traffic? What about trees lining your Main Street?
- Are the restaurants in your town clean and up to code? And let’s not forget about the police and firefighters who keep us safe. And our schools, that teach our kids.
DEMOCRATIC RADIO ADDRESS
Hill says: Some spend their time pointing out all that is wrong and offer no solutions, but Democrats are working across the aisle to see that the state keeps its promise with Maine towns.
One of the most important tasks for any legislature is to work with the governor to put together a budget for our state. Budgets are built upon compromise and negotiation. And while each political party may have variations in their funding priorities, there’s often bipartisan agreement when it comes to meeting our financial obligations, especially when it comes to the towns and communities across our state.
Good Morning. This is State Senator Dawn Hill of York. I am the Senate Chair of the state’s budget writing committee.
More than forty years ago, state government made a promise to each town and city in Maine: give five percent of sales and income taxes collected from towns, by the state, back to the municipalities. This is called revenue sharing. The goal of this promise was to provide property tax relief to homeowners and commercial property owners.
The state has kept its promise— until recently.
Last year, Governor LePage broke this promise by proposing the complete elimination of revenue sharing. During the public hearing, we heard days of testimony from Mayors, City Managers, and Selectboards—each narrating the devastating impact this would have on communities in every corner of our state.
The Legislature responded.
Democrats led the way to restore revenue sharing. And while we restored a good portion of it, we were thwarted by some Tea Party Republicans, and were unable to fully fund revenue sharing.
Last month, Governor LePage doubled down on his pursuit to completely eliminate revenue sharing. He even went so far as to call it “welfare.” Ask any town manager if they agree with Governor LePage’s label.
I can tell you that town officials from our biggest cities to our smallest towns have responded in outrage.
Belfast. Standish. Brewer. Eddington. Portland. And dozens more.
Towns are telling us their budgets are as tight as can be. They depend on the state’s revenue sharing, and cannot tolerate placing any more unnecessary pressure on local taxpayers.
If the state doesn’t keep its promise, no town will escape the choice between cutting bare-to-the bones services or raising property taxes. And, many will have to do both.
Last week, my co-chair and I proposed a measure that will honor the state’s promise to our local towns. Without this, towns will lose an average of sixty-two percent of revenue sharing toward their budgets.
So why does revenue sharing matter?
As you drive—or walk—around your town, look around.
Revenue sharing matters.
While some in Augusta spend their time pointing out all that is wrong with our state—and offer no solutions, Democrats are working across the aisle to see that we uphold our share of the bargain for our towns. And because of that, I hope our Republican colleagues will join us in fulfilling the state’s commitment.
This is State Senator Dawn Hill. Thank you for listening. Have a good weekend. And, let’s remember to honor Dr. Martin Luther King on Monday.
NOTE: Now that Senate Minority leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) has indicated he is considering entering the #2CD #MEGOP primary fray against former Senate President Kevin (“Third time’s the charm, I tell ya!”) Raye and former Treasurer Bruce (“Which district do I live in, again?”) Poliquin, it’s time to go back through and dust off some posts.
Oh, yeah… Blaine (“I’m running, too!”) Richardson is in the mix there, too- somewhere.
Here’s a goodie- the day Mike Thibodeau vote to sustain LePage’s veto and shut down the entire state government. Ah, good times!
(Originally posted 30 Jun 2013)
Before the Maine Senate voted decisively by a 26-9 tally last Wednesday to override Governor Paul LePage’s Tuesday veto on LD 1509, “An Act Making Unified Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015”, twenty members of that body rose to deliver speeches.
NOTE: Although Maine Republican Senators Assistant Minority Leader Roger Katz (Kennebec), Pat Flood (Kennebec; member of Appropriations committee), Brian Langley (Hancock), Tom Saviello (Franklin), Roger Sherman (Aroostook) and Edward Youngblood (Penobscot) joined Independent Senator Dick Woodbury (Cumberland) and all 19 Democratic Senators in overriding the Governor’s veto hence preventing a disastrous statewide government shutdown, there were no public statements released by their press office.
Katz has taken some heat from his own party for the letter:
Commenters on a well-known conservative website blasted Katz for attempting to compromise on Medicaid expansion. The senator was dubbed a RINO, a “Republican In Name Only.” One commenter suggested that Katz is predisposed to support liberal policies because he is Jewish and an attorney.
Ugly- and indicative of a party very deeply divided indeed.
Here in order of speakers are clips of the full debate. The statements added are from a Senate Democratic press release sent out after the vote. Additionally was this statement from Senate President Justin Alfond (Cumberland).
“We did what the people of Maine expect us to do— we passed a responsible budget that will keep the state working,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “This is what we came here to do: work together to find common ground and help our state thrive.”
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Dawn Hill (York)
“Today’s vote is no longer a vote on whether you like the budget; today’s vote is a vote to either shut down or not to shut down our state’s government,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “I’m proud that our Republican colleagues joined us and stuck together to keep our state going, and pass a responsible, balanced budget for the people of Maine.”
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Pat Flood (Kennebec)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Emily Cain (Penobscot)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Brian Kangley (Hancock)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator David Burns (Washington)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator John Cleveland (Androscoggin)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Doug Thomas (Somerset)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Tom Saviello (Franklin)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Anne Haskell (Cumberland)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Colleen Lachowicz (Kennebec)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Margaret Craven (Androscoggin)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Chris Johnson (Lincoln)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Stan Gerzofsky (Cumberland)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Andre Cushing (Penobscot)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator John Tuttle (York)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Geoff Gratwick (Penobscot)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Troy Jackson (Aroostook)
“I have voted on six biennial budgets in my time in the Legislature, and this is the budget vote I am most proud of,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “It’s certainly not a perfect budget, but it is a responsible budget. This is what legislating should look like.”
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Mike Thibodeau (Waldo)
LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Seth Goodall (Sagadahoc)
“While no one got everything they wanted in this budget, everyone got something they needed. That is compromise, and that is what is needed in divided government in order to move Maine forward,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. “Today’s vote is a vote for a higher responsibility to put our state on solid footing. It’s also a vote for an opportunity to avoid property tax increases on every Maine homeowner. It’s a vote for an investment in our schools and our children–and it’s a vote to keep the lights on.”
In the days leading up to the federal government shutdown, some of Maine’s Congressional members warned constituents of the approaching crisis, with Rep. Chellie Pingree stating that the September 29 vote by the House GOP linking the budget to removing funding for provisions of the Affordable Care Act was “a reckless and irresponsible move on the part of House Republicans that has taken us one step closer to a government shutdown”.The Congresswoman also set up a web page (“Government Shutdown FAQ”), describing the potential effect on federal agencies and programs, if such a shutdown were to occur.
The nation watched and waited, as the efforts for a “clean continuing resolution” or a “CR” went back and forth between the two chambers in DC, with House Republicans refusing to allow a clean CR to come up for a vote in their chamber and the Senate Democrats voting down each and every House-passed CR with ACA-defunding provisions attached to it. Inevitably, America went into its first federal shutdown in seventeen years, as of midnight on October 1, with an estimated 800,000 workers nationwide immediately furloughed.
Here in Maine, experts announced that there could be “profound effects on businesses” from a prolonged shutdown for the state.
Maine Democratic leaders, who had faced similar gridlock and a potential shutdown locally earlier this year but managed to come together with enough Republicans to avert that situation by overriding Governor LePage’s budget veto (LD 1509) for our state were quick to respond:
“As lawmakers it is always our job to make sure government works for the people. We should question the motives behind those who work against us. The fact that one small group from one political party is blackmailing the rest of the country is shameful,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “Because of their actions, here in Maine, some folks will be prevented from moving forward with their home loans, thousands will lose their paycheck, and scores of businesses will be put on hold until this mess is cleaned up. I’m proud that in the Maine Legislature, we don’t behave that way. We show up and do our job—even when we disagree.”
“The people of Maine and millions of Americans across the country woke up shaking our heads this morning,”said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “We are tired of Tea Party politicians who are more interested in running our government into the ground than making it work. Now, more than ever, we must collaborate to move our state and country forward. Democrats are committed to doing so as we head into the next legislative session.”
But when it was Governor LePage’s turn to respond, he minimized the effect of the Tea Party fueled shutdown with the following statement and mention of 280 furloughed federal employees:
“Although some positions and programs in state agencies are federally funded, all functions of state government will proceed as normal through the end of the week,” Governor LePage said. “The shutdown of the federal government is a result of the failure of leadership in Washington, D.C. A short-term shutdown won’t impact the operation of Maine state government. But if the shutdown continues for an extended period, then it could affect some state agencies. With the politicians constantly fighting over the budget, sequestration and the debt ceiling, in addition to $17 trillion in national debt, we cannot rely on the federal government to pay for public assistance programs or state services for Maine people.”
It has now been a week. Let’s examine the numbers of those directly affected here in Maine, shall we?
- More than 200 federal employees at Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor.
- 280 immediately furloughed Maine Army National Guardsmen. Scratch that; try 400.
- 44 more administrative Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management employees in Maine.
- 56 SSDI health workers, with 52 of them, being the entire staff of the Disability Determination office in Winthrop.
- “Thousands” of state employees”, possibly by the end of this week.
- Potentially more than 500 employees of Defense Finance and Accounting Services in Limestone.
- 1500 workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard were furloughed last week, with some now returning to work. As many as 2800 received furlough notices.
More layoffs, as provided by Maine AFL-CIO via press release last week:
- In Cutler, 12 workers at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station are locked out of their jobs.
- In Limestone, over 500 workers are still working but may be sent home without pay within days.
- In Bangor and Portland, Professional Aviation Safety Specialists who inspect the planes we all fly on to ensure safety have been told not to come in, and others that are deemed essential are working without pay.
- Across the state, OSHA inspectors who keep workplaces safe for all Maine workers are wondering when their next paycheck may be and how they will pay their bills.
- In Augusta, workers who process veteran benefits at Togus in the VBA will likely be sent home within days.
- In Kittery, thousands of workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are out of work and more are working but unsure if they will be paid.
- In Bangor and Portland, Air Traffic Controllers are working without pay.
Today Rep. Pingree’s office announced that nearly 10,000 VA workers have been furloughed nationwide. It remains to be seen what effect this announcement will mean on those workers at Togus or the veterans receiving care. Her statement:
“The shutdown has already slowed down the claims process and these furloughs can only make things worse. For veterans who have been waiting months or even years for the benefits they deserve, that’s outrageous,” Pingree said. “This is the latest example of the real pain that the shutdown is causing to families all across the country. It’s outrageous that Republican leaders are keeping the government closed because of their obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act, and now veterans are paying the price. The VA has made it clear that if the shutdown goes into late October there could be a delay in disability payments,” Pingree said. “That would be a real hardship for veterans and their families. Not only is this a hardship for veterans, but also for the men and women at the VA who work every day to process claims for our veterans.”
A new study in today’s Bangor Daily News shows that the effects of the shutdown are hitting Maine especially hard, due to our large number of veterans and elderly population:
The study, put out by the website WalletHub, says Virginia is the state most affected by the shutdown. Makes sense. Washington, D.C., ranks fourth on the list. Makes sense, too. But that’s just one spot ahead of Maine. Maryland — home to numerous federal offices and federal workers — is sixth, one slot behind Maine.
So why does a shutdown hit Maine harder than it hits Maryland? It’s not because Maine is home to a disproportionately high number of furloughed federal employees — though the state has its share. Rather, it’s the state’s high concentration of seniors and veterans, its businesses’ dependence on loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the role real estate plays in the state economy.
We now enter Week #2 of the shutdown, with no end in sight.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Among the cuts listed:
-$1.1 million by reducing overtime.
-$800k by cutting the Prisoner Boarding Account.
-Allowing prisoners with 18 months left on their sentences, as opposed to current 12 months, to participate in work-release programs, creating an additional $85k in revenue.
-Privatizing DOC’s kitchen staff, saving $374k.
Here are some quick videos of Mr. Rosen addressing the committee, the first as he starts to lay out the cuts to the committee and the second including questions by AFA committee members:
Democrats were critical of the cuts:
“There are strong concerns that the administration’s proposed cuts will harm our state’s economy and Maine families,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York who also serves as the Senate chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee. “We are prepared to make hard decisions and know that we must work together on solutions. But these solutions must be strategic and smart, not harmful and regressive for our working families and our towns.”
“This proposal is a ‘greatest hits’ list of rehashed ideas that have been rejected by both parties, It’s hard to believe this is a serious proposal.”said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the House chair of the Appropriations committee. “Now it is our job to find proposals that work.”
As required by the budget, $11 million of the proposed cuts would occur in fiscal year 2014 and do not require the approval of the Legislature. The remainder of the proposed cuts would occur in 2015 and would need to be approved by lawmakers when the Legislature reconvenes in January.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
(UPDATED) Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Warns that “126th Isn’t Over Yet”; “Playing Politics is Easy, Governing is Hard”
UPDATE: Apparently Senate President Justin Alfond also took offense with much of the Governor’s weekly address, as he issued this statement moments ago:
ALFOND RESPONDS TO GOVERNOR’S RADIO ADDRESS
AUGUSTA— Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland released a statement in response to the following assertion made by Governor LePage in his radio address:
“Playing politics is easy; governing effectively is hard. As Chief Executive, I take my responsibilities on behalf of the people of Maine seriously.
Our Administration has worked hard to change the attitude within government and has brought more transparency to government than any recent administration. We work with citizens and businesses to solve problems. We strive to be efficient and responsible with taxpayer dollars. And we only introduce public policy that benefits Mainers and our state.”
President Alfond replied:
“The governor certainly has changed the tone in Augusta. He has made politics one of the most contentious and divided in our state’s history. He has vetoed more bills than any other governor, he has lobbed insults that require censorship on TV, and he has continued to put his stubbornness ahead of the best interests of Maine people. We deserve better than this.
The governor’s radio address shows no connection to what he does every day. It’s insulting that he thinks Mainers aren’t paying attention and that he thinks he can get away with his irresponsible behavior.”
All other links below are not as originally shared, nor are stresses. ~AP
Democratic leadership chose their strategy, which was to attack and delay.
Hello. This is Governor Paul R. LePage.
Playing politics is easy; governing effectively is hard. As Chief Executive, I take my responsibilities on behalf of the people of Maine seriously.
Our Administration has worked hard to change the attitude within government and has brought more transparency to government than any recent administration. We work with citizens and businesses to solve problems. We strive to be efficient and responsible with taxpayer dollars. And we only introduce public policy that benefits Mainers and our state.
There are nearly 500 new bills that will become law in October or earlier as a result of this session.
In one of the most appalling moves of the session, however, some Democrats took a stand against the Administration at the expense of our military men and women. A Governor’s bill was submitted supporting Maine’s uniformed military members having access to public schools.
Military recruiters told our Administration several schools in southern Maine only allow minimal access of recruiters. Those high schools brought to our attention were Oak Hill, Noble, Wells, York, Kennebunk, Gorham and Yarmouth. We also were informed that two additional high schools, Portland and Yarmouth, refused uniformed recruiters from stepping on campus.
Democrats have claimed there is no problem, but in the same breath some Democrats have said uniformed military service members may intimidate high school students. So, the father or mother who arrives in uniform to pick up their child from school is threatening? The thought is preposterous.
I’d bet my life on the word of a recruiter over a superintendent any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
As I prepare to go to Gettysburg, I am disgusted by these behaviors. The Democrats blatant rejection of this bill sends a message to all military service members – past and present – that they are not welcome in Maine’s public school system. The disdain is evident and it is a sad day for Maine when we cannot come together in agreement to support our troops.
Maine has a proud and long-standing tradition of service to our state and country. We have the largest number of veterans per capita in the nation and we owe our heartfelt gratitude to our troops who defend our freedom and sacrifice time with their family, friends and communities to serve.
NOTE: It is well known that our governor himself, unlike many men of his age, was not in the military during Vietnam and in fact, was living in New Brunswick raising his first family at the time. Paul LePage never served in the military in any capacity and has in fact been a harsh critic on numerous occasions of our nation’s Commander-in-Chief, President Barack Obama.
First Lady Ann LePage, who has done a far better job of representing our state well than her husband ever could; our state is and should be grateful for and proud of our First Lady’s tireless work. That Governor LePage is speaking up so strongly is just another example of odd and inappropriate behavior, which the state has gotten rather used to over the course of his tenure.
“I’m a Vietnam veteran. I have a Bronze Star. I belong to the American Legion. But I don’t want to see this sort of cynical misuse of patriotism for political ends,” said Rep. Charlie Priest, D-Brunswick. “This issue is about local control. It’s not about whether we love the military or not. Of course we love the military.”
Priest is a Navy veteran who earned a Bronze Star for his service in the Republic of Vietnam in 1970 and 1971.
“I’m very disappointed that this bill was used as a political tool to try to divide us. I’m a veteran and I’m a patriot. I know what side I’m on,” said Rep. John Schneck, D-Bangor, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Navy and is a member of the American Legion. “As far as I can tell, the ‘problem’ the bill addresses doesn’t exist. No factual evidence of a problem has ever been produced.”
“This bill is a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t appear to exist. We want our military to succeed and we also want to leave decisions to educators and parents in keeping with our time-honored tradition of home rule,” said Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay, the committee’s House chair.
Military service is not for everyone and this bill did nothing to force students into serving. It simply forbade school administrators from refusing recruiters in uniform to visit with students interested in exploring life’s options.
I encourage Mainers to find out where politicians stand on this important common sense bill before they cast their next vote. I assure you that this will not be the last time this bill is introduced.
I do not form opinions about policy based on party lines. Our Administration identifies the problem, reviews the options, and develops a plan. I stand by my principles and I don’t know any other way than to fight for what I believe in.
Maine has challenging issues that must be addressed. While we have the lowest unemployment rate in years, we need to become more competitive.
Electricity prices must be lowered and government spending must be curbed. I want Maine businesses to have the opportunity to thrive and create new jobs, and I want you to keep your hard-earned money not give it to government.
Furthermore, the taxes the Legislature just raised on you were completely unnecessary.
NOTE: Um… who’s zooming who? His own PARTY offered their own late budget, as it became readily apparent that the LePage budget was set to force municipalities to raise taxes on every Mainer, to counter the unfunded $400 million tax cuts to the wealthy passed by the GOP led 125th Legislature.
Garrett Martin, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), called the proposal from legislative Republicans to restore $368 million to the state budget “a step in the right direction.” But he cautioned members of the Legislature’s budget-writing appropriations committee to reject the Republican proposals to tax nonprofits and take over the assets of the Maine Health Access Foundation to raise additional revenues and seek other “realistic revenue alternatives.”
“Yesterday, legislative Republicans acknowledged the need to break with the governor and restore $368 million to the state budget in order to avoid property tax increases on hardworking Maine families,” Martin said. “Some of the most conservative members of the Republican Party joined in this appeal that includes new revenue. MECEP has maintained all along that Maine working families need a budget that funds our schools, protects our elderly and disabled, and gives our economy a boost without crushing property tax increases. Republican admission that additional revenues are needed to balance the budget is a step in the right direction.
Yesterday’s proposal did not include realistic revenue alternatives,” Martin said. “The proposals to tax nonprofits and take over the assets of the Maine Health Access Foundation amount to a ‘hail Mary’ pass in the wrong direction. There are much better alternatives that we urge members of the appropriations committee to consider.”
Perhaps Governor LePage was somehow unaware of the effects of his budget as proposed upon his former city of Waterville… a reminder, via current Mayor Karen Heck:
Karen Heck, Waterville’s Mayor, has long been outspoken in her criticism of tax cuts and how those cuts affect municipalities, as was her predecessor, Paul LePage. She laid out a bleak picture:
“Even the best of these (Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee) proposals means a loss of nearly 50% million to municipalities over the next two years. We have been cutting services and trimming payroll for several years. We simply cannot absorb that kind of cut without raising taxes. Revenue sharing is an obligation, a bill the state should pay.”
He also has yet to acknowledge this clip:
I don’t know what Mainers will remember most about this first session. Perhaps it’s the recruiter bill or maybe that the hospital welfare debt was finally paid. Quite frankly, the tax increases disturb me the most.
(Or maybe it will be these… )
More on that last, as LePage’s repeated statements of how the Administrations’ words were not heard by Appropriations is an out-and-out bald-faced lie. Both Commissioners Mayhew and Millett were heard by the AFA committee and the Governor knows this to be true. The Governor’s arrival to AFA on May 19th’s special session was at the 15 minute mark of this 45 plus minute recording:
And the way I look at it: the 126th isn’t over yet. So, in January we will have a plan. A plan that repeals the tax increases and is designed to move Maine forward.
The question is will Democrats choose to fight against me again or work for the Maine people.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Originally 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”
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.
As 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?”
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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