Tuesday, March 11, 2014
(Continued from page 1)
Now it's your turn, Governor.
I'm afraid to even recall how, back in March, you warned that any substantive changes by the Legislature to your proposed tax cuts and your far-reaching rollbacks on state pensions and welfare benefits would be "show stoppers" -- meaning you'd exercise your veto power over the single most important piece of legislation that will ever cross your desk.
Well, no surprise, the Legislature changed all of those things. Leaving you, Governor, with three choices.
You can get out your scalpel and execute one or more line-item vetoes on portions of the budget you don't like. But you'll have to move fast -- under Maine's Constitution, your line-item-veto window remains open only through today.
I know, that sounds tempting. But keep in mind that the Legislature can override such vetoes with a simple majority vote -- less than the two-thirds it already surpassed this week. With the strains of "Kumbaya" still echoing between the House and Senate chambers, my bet is you'll end up with egg on your face.
Then there's Option 2 -- veto the entire budget and, in the process, propel the state government toward the potential nightmare of a July 1 shutdown.
That would no doubt sell a lot of newspapers, Governor. But when the smoke finally clears, you'd get most if not all of the blame for bringing the state to its knees over ... what?
"I think it will be totally on him," speculated Democratic leader Cain. "For any governor to think he can get the budget as (he) presented it -- that's just nuts."
House Speaker Robert Nutting of Oakland put it a bit more tactfully.
"He's a realist," said Nutting, who said he's discussed the matter with you. "He knew there would be compromises and I believe he understands that."
The third option is by far the best. As Cain sees it, "I think he should declare victory and throw a party."
I know, Governor, the last thing you need is advice from the "loyal opposition." Still, Cain has a point.
By signing the budget now, you can show Maine that you're a reasonable guy, that you're fast growing into this pressure cooker of a job and that you understand how government, at its best, is the product of thoughtful compromise.
So go ahead and ink that thing, Governor. I'm already working on the headline:
"Budget crisis averted: LePage, lawmakers get 'er done!"
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: