Gov. Paul LePage has not said much since his party took a beating at the polls this election, but from the few comments he has made we do not expect much change in his approach following the election.
That’s too bad. The governor was given the reins of power in 2010 and pursued an aggressive agenda, getting much of what he wanted. This year Democrats took back both houses of the Legislature, which should send a message to the governor about the popularity of his programs with voters. Given this new allignment, nothing will get done without some bipartisan compromise.
If LePage wants to make progress on the unfinished business from the first term, such as reducing the cost of health care and energy and improving the state’s schools, he is going to have try a different approach.
So far, much of what he has said indicates that he is not ready to change. In a terse written statement issued the day after the election, the governor said, “I stand ready to work with those who will put Mainers first and won’t allow the political rhetoric to continue,” which sounds fine unless you remember that he doesn’t consider what he says to be political rhetoric.
In an appearance at York County Coummunity College in Wells, LePage needlessly trashed the state’s public schools (saying they are incapable of providing a good education) and said he didn’t care about getting re-elected, calling the political system “corrupt” and “vile” because “it was full of lies.”
And speaking with a reporter at the Republican Governors Association conference in Las Vegas, LePage said that he would stick with the tea party governors who oppose the Affordable Care Act and would not take any steps to create a state health insurance exchange even if it would improve the way the law would operate for Maine’s residents. For a politician who often claims state programs work better than federal ones, this is an odd stance. It’s equally strange coming from a governor who has identified the high cost of health care as a major economic challenge for the state. An online marketplace that provides competition and consumer choice sounds like the kind of idea that LePage would approve of if it hadn’t been proposed by a Democratic president.
The governor has to decide how he wants to operate in the new political environment in Augusta. Will he work with Democrats and achieve some of his goals, or fight with them and risk getting nothing done? Given these comments, it appears that this is a governor who would rather lose than achieve a partial win.
That will leave some tough choices for Democratic leaders in the State House, who have constituents expecting big changes now that they are in the majority. Will they try to work with LePage or, more likely, legislative Republicans to pass a budget that reflects Democratic values, at least in part? Or will they pass a string of partisan bills that LePage will veto, ending up with an election rationale for 2014? We should expect anything, except maybe, a new approach by Gov. LePage.