February 24, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Just when legislators are playing nice … a curveball

(Continued from page 1)

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House Speaker Mark Eves, D-Berwick

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House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport

Keep in mind, with the battle lines already drawn between Democrats' calls for "tax fairness" and Republicans' insistence on "reduced spending," that no one has said a shutdown isn't a possibility.

In fact, should LePage impose an across-the-board veto on the budget and either the House or the Senate fails to muster the bipartisan, two-thirds votes needed to override, a shutdown goes from the possible to the downright probable.

"That's the fine point that we're talking about," Fredette said. "We're talking about that critical point where the Legislature passes a budget and the governor vetoes it. What happens then?"

Not an unreasonable question. Nor is it one that can be answered four months in advance.

So why, at this early stage, toss it like a lit match into the political tinderbox?

"My job as leader is to talk about the possibilities," Fredette replied. "The key is making sure that doesn't happen."

Good luck with that, Mr. Minority Leader.

Truth be told, the more Fredette tosses around the "s" word now, the better its chance of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. With their own leader already talking shutdown, what's to stop the House Republican rank-and-file (not to mention the Democrats) from simply sitting back and waiting for the inevitable?

Worse yet will be the verdict from the court of public opinion should Maine relive the nightmare of 1991: While protests raged throughout the State House that summer, a budget standoff between Republican Gov. John McKernan and a Democratically controlled Legislature shut down much of Augusta for 16 endless days.

Anything close to that, come the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, will lead to one pivotal question from the masses: Who started it?

And the answer, dating all the way back to that Feb. 22 TV appearance by Fredette, will be the Republicans.

"Nobody wants this to be a successful process more than me," Fredette promised. "It's incumbent on all of us to make sure (a shutdown) doesn't happen."

So do us all a favor and stop yapping about it.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


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