June 13, 2013

Bill Nemitz: First the budget vote, then the other shoe drops

(Continued from page 1)

Down the hall, Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, the House minority leader, said there are times when flip-flops are perfectly defensible.   

“You might get new information that changes your mind” after a bill’s initial passage, Fredette said. 

(A case in point: LePage’s recent veto of a bill banning a residency requirement for school superintendents, overwhelming passed by the Legislature, was upheld after the governor shared with Fredette and other Republican leaders a stack of protest letters from constituents in Biddeford whose local residency requirement would have been superseded by the statute.)   

But on the big stuff like the state budget, Fredette said, lawmakers have a choice: Put your faith in the bipartisan Appropriations Committee, which labored long and hard to unanimously endorse the current spending bill. Or turn your back on all that and, when it truly counts, fall in behind LePage.   

“It’s very difficult for someone who’s not sitting on the Appropriations Committee to understand all those moving parts and pieces,” Fredette said. “There’s a huge amount of trust because these are people who spend five months on one document. And it’s incredibly complex.”   

Translation: Hard as parts of the budget might be for Republicans to swallow (most notably temporary increases in the sales tax and meals-and-lodging taxes), they pale by comparison to the fallout a state shutdown would rain down upon both sides of the aisle.   

Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, doesn’t worry much about flip-flopping on a budget veto because he has no intention of supporting the current spending package in the first place.   

That said, Thomas sees the flip-flop as a political balancing act: He’ll part ways with the governor on bills that Thomas considers important to himself and/or his constituents. But he’ll defer to LePage’s veto on measures that “don’t amount to a yellow hole in the snow.”   

Ditto for Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, who may flip-flop from time to time if a leading Republican on this or that committee tells him a veto is no big deal. But generally, Saviello said, he feels morally obligated to stand by his original vote the second time around.   

“When I vote for something, if it’s controversial, I have to be able to explain myself,” Saviello said. “If I can’t do that, then I don’t belong here.”   

A Republican lawmaker would have to be nuts, of course, to publicly admit up front that he or she plans to flip-flop on the budget. Yet hard as it might be to discern who will hold firm and who might succumb to the LePage administration’s inevitable arm-twisting, a consensus seems to be emerging that whatever budget does get passed in the coming days will be veto-proof.   

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