June 26, 2013

Maine Voices: Assistant GOP leader: Governor’s behavior sets unfortunate tone in Augusta

Gov. LePage's posturing and name-calling overshadow his accomplishments and create a crisis atmosphere, Sen. Roger Katz says.

By ROGER KATZ, assistant Maine Senate Republican leader

AUGUSTA — Phew. We are through another crisis. The state budget has passed. We have avoided shutdown.

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The Maine House voted Wednesday to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto of the state budget.

Andy Molloy / Kennebec Journal

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Gov. LePage's actions are not in line with the highest ideals of the Republican Party, says state Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta.

2013 Kennebec Journal File Photo/Andy Molloy

But wait. Why are politics in Augusta beginning to feel like politics in dysfunctional Washington? Is it because Republican and Democratic legislators can’t get along? Well, no, not really. Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature reached respectful compromises on the budget and dozens of lesser-known bills. Then why the crisis atmosphere?

To me and many others, it is once again the unfortunate tone being set by our chief executive. His use of vulgarity and schoolyard taunts to demean his Democratic opponents. His failure to offer real apology. And then his insulting of Republican legislators who choose to disagree with him.

As a lifelong, proud Republican who was overjoyed to see a Republican elected back into the Blaine House three years ago, I have one thing to say. I am embarrassed.

Gov. LePage has advocated for some important and long-overdue policy changes in the last few years. Reducing Maine’s high income tax rates, prodding for more aggressive school reform, easing the burden of regulation on Maine businesses – these have been a breath of fresh air. 

The governor has tirelessly pushed to get a grip on the rapidly rising cost of Medicaid, ferret out fraud and abuse and bring down Maine’s high energy costs. These are ideas I and most Republicans have been proud to support and work to pass into law. It is the kind of positive agenda that defines us as Republicans, and the governor deserves huge credit for leading the charge.

But the governor’s behavior is something I have never seen in Maine politics, and could never imagine coming from a Republican. 

I grew up in a Republican household. My father, Bennett Katz, served as a Republican legislative leader when I was young. I got to meet his Republican friends – class acts like Joe Sewall, Ken MacLeod, David Huber and Sam Collins.

No one fought harder than they did for the traditional Republican principles of limited government and free enterprise. But they would never even have considered demonizing their opponents.

If they were here to see the end of this session, with the name-calling and posturing, with the interests of political advantage pursued over the interests of real Maine people, they would have been appalled. Then, if they found out that this was the tone set by a Republican governor, they would have been dumbfounded.

The Republican Party’s highest ideals are expressed by Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. The Maine Republican Party’s highest ideals are expressed by our remarkable run of talented U.S. senators – Margaret Chase Smith, Bill Cohen, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins. 

These are people who acknowledge the essential goodness of the people they encounter, from whatever walk of life and party. These are people who are more interested in making government work than in scoring political points. These are responsible reformers.

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