January 24, 2013

Our View: Gov. LePage's outburst puts Maine in bad light

A bond rating agency says it has doubts about Maine's decision-making process.

By now, Gov. LePage knows how to get our attention.

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage

2013 Press Herald file/Gabe Souza

If he pounds his hands on the table, calls people names and storms around the State House, all eyes will be on him.

Sometimes it seems calculated, as when he grabbed the headlines and lead position on the nightly newscasts the day Democrats outlined their agenda. All the governor had to do was talk bad about our public schools, accuse teachers and administrators of lying to kids and invite the state charter school commission members to resign.

Other times, such as a recent meeting with unenrolled lawmakers, it looks to be an uncontrolled outburst.

Either way, he ought to know by now that people in Maine are not the only ones watching. His leadership style has been noticed by people from away, and it does not make the state look good.

Gov. LePage's refusal to meet with Democratic legislative leaders was the subject of a news story in The New York Times (daily circulation of 1.6 million). The story also touched on his meeting with the independents, in which he reportedly called them "idiots" and swore at them when they questioned his plan to suspend municipal revenue sharing.

LePage and his supporters might be able to laugh off that meeting and the national attention it drew, but they shouldn't feel the same about Fitch Ratings service, which downgraded Maine's debt by one notch.

The agency noted that reforms made to the state employee pension fund are a positive, and that Maine's current debt load is manageable.

But it pointed out that continued budget shortfalls and "an increasingly contentious decision-making environment" led the agency to tell its customers that Maine is not as good a risk as it once believed.

At this point, that's not enough to make it more expensive for the state to borrow money, but it's not good news for Maine.

Earning a reputation as a state in which people don't talk to one another and are incapable of bridging their differences can do real financial damage to Maine.

The governor may think his tactics give him a better bargaining position, but he should also see that the way he acts is hurting the state.

If Gov. LePage wanted everyone's attention, he's got it. What he does next could have a big impact on what the nation thinks about Maine.


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