Phil: How is your family visit to the Left Coast, I mean California, going?
Ethan: Splendid. Been spending quality time with my mother and my wife, who came out here for a few months to study to become a medical esthetician. I also found a couple good bars to watch my Rangers wind their way through the Stanley Cup playoffs. Why do you ask? Everything OK in my beloved Portland?
Phil: Well, you definitely missed some fun when your mayor decided that he had the power to postpone a vote on the budget without first getting approval from the council. Acting like he was king (not Angus), created quite an uproar among his colleagues.
Ethan: I read about that. Oy, what a mess. Sounds like a bit of a communication problem.
Phil: Or an ego problem. But that’s not why I asked. I asked because I was wondering if all the family love you are feeling might be spreading to the Maine State House?
Ethan: Love in the State House! Are there some scandalous shenanigans going on that you are about to blast across the front pages of Maine newspapers?
Phil: No, no. Nothing like that. However, and please don’t take offense …
Ethan: Whenever someone says, “Please don’t take offense,” you know what’s coming next.
Phil: Well, ever since you left me as the only one to observe the actions of the Legislature, it seems like bipartisanship and collaboration has blossomed.
Ethan: Really? Did Republicans finally agree to balance our tax code in a way that helps the middle class? Did they finally agree to end crony capitalism and corporate welfare? Did they finally end their war on welfare recipients?
Phil: You must be taking in too much of that liberal California sun.
Ethan: Speaking of the liberal California sun, did you see that Los Angeles just voted to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour? The standard of living for literally millions will rise based on the stroke of one pen. And we can’t even get Maine (or Portland) to raise it to $12.
Phil: You forgot to mention it happens “in the year 2020.” Oh no, I just introduced another Left Coast theme.
Ethan: Yes, it increases yearly until it hits $15 in 2020 (and then continues based on inflation). Very responsible progression from progressives, as usual.
Phil: Will you please get your head and heart focused on what I am trying to tell you regarding the State House? When Democrats support LePage’s proposal to gradually wean welfare recipients off benefits, rather than pushing them off the cliff when they hit a certain income, that is like them getting engaged don’t you think?
Ethan: Well yes, that is good news. Although, I would remind you that Democrats have proposed this solution for decades. Unfortunately, Republicans in the past weren’t willing to pay for it. But hey, I am simply glad that it is moving forward. All hail the governor.
Phil: Then, get this, Speaker Mark Eves and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing are co-sponsoring a law to create a job training bill.
Ethan: Wow! You’re convincing me that I should stay in California longer. I also saw that the Legislature unanimously voted to overturn one of the governor’s vetoes.
Phil: Yes, a 100 percent override of his veto of a bill to allow for family to transfer a moose permit to another member of the family. In my eight years in the Maine Senate, I don’t recall that ever happening.
Ethan: Nor me. I don’t really understand why he vetoed it in the first place. Do you think it was a misjudgment on the governor’s part on the Legislature’s support for the bill?
Phil: I don’t think the governor cares one iota what the Legislature does with his vetoes. He signs what he likes. Allows to become law without his signature what he’ll tolerate. And vetoes what he see as frivolous or detrimental. If the Legislature wants to sustain or override, that is their problem, in his eyes.
Ethan: Perhaps, but when you get completely blanked, it has to hurt. So, is your sense that the Legislature has united and is ready to get some tough stuff done? What you have mentioned so far, moose permits, infrastructure investments and the welfare cliff, is not really where the tough rubber hits the road.
Phil: As we both know, the real work is just ahead with the budget and tax reform. But these “touching” moments of bi-partisanship may be foretelling of the governor, House and Senate working together.
Ethan: In terms of the budget and tax reform, the governor doesn’t matter anymore. Whatever they pass must have two thirds, which means it is veto proof.
Phil: Somehow I don’t think my party’s rank and file or leadership is going to abandon the man who carried them to power (at least I hope not). Regardless, he will make sure his voice is heard and included.
Ethan: Heard? Yes. Included? Not so sure. The plan Republicans rolled out for tax reform pretty much rejected everything the governor wanted (the Democrats incorporated more of his ideas). It seems to me like Republicans were just saving face in order to not be blamed when tax reform blows up the budget and shuts down government.
Phil: Shuts down government! Why are you talking war when love is in the air? You better get to the airport and get back here to the “right coast.”