May 7, 2013

State union seeks meeting with LePage on possible shutdown

The MSEA wants to discuss terms of the 'inevitable,' but a LePage aide says no shutdown plan directive has been issued.

By Steve Mistler
State House Bureau

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Democratic leaders also called on the governor Monday to release $104 million in bonds that voters have approved.

The state employees union, historically a political ally of Democrats, has repeatedly tangled with LePage and has filed several complaints against the administration with the Maine Labor Relations Board. The union continues to seek a new labor agreement with the administration. That process is in mediation.

Belcher said the letter sent Monday is not related to the union's pursuit of a new contract.

"Our members are very concerned about whether they're going to be able to pay their bills and continue to provide the services that they're paid to deliver," Belcher said. He said that if the administration is girding for a state shutdown, the union should be involved.

"We want the state to talk to us," he said. "We want to figure out how to do this together."

The shutdown in 1991 suspended non-emergency state services for 16 days. The political dynamic was similar to the current one: a Republican governor, John McKernan Jr., and a Democratic-controlled Legislature.

During the run-up to and the aftermath of the shutdown, the political parties blamed each other for the lack of an agreement on a balanced budget. The same type of rhetorical battle started early in this session.

In late February, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, predicted a "real battle" between the parties and said "a government shutdown is something that's a possibility."

Democrats pounced on Fredette's comments, saying such talk was emblematic of the "do-nothing politics" in Congress.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

Twitter: @stevemistler


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