March 2, 2013

Our View: Governor's veto threats no way to do business

Issuing early ultimatums will put Gov. LePage on the sidelines when the real work gets done.

Normally we don't pay much attention when we hear a caller mouthing off on talk radio. But when the outrageous bluster comes from the governor of Maine, we have to pay attention.

click image to enlarge

Speaker of the House Mark W. Eves, D- North Berwick, left, chats with Gov. Paul LePage before the governor gives the State of the State address on Tuesday Feb. 5, 2013, in the State House in Augusta. LePage says he will veto all legislation unless the Legislature approves his plan to borrow $500 million.

Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

On Friday, Gov. LePage took the opportunity on the "George Hale and Ric Tyler Show" on Bangor's WVOM to announce that he planned to veto every bill that comes across his desk, even ones he sponsored, unless the Legislature approves his plan to borrow $500 million, which he would repay with revenues from a 10-year contract for the state's liquor business.

The governor said he can't understand why the Legislature has been slow to give him everything he wants, but even in Augusta, spending half a billion dollars is a big deal and deserves a high level of legislative scrutiny. LePage says he needs the money to pay back the state's hospitals and won't budge until he gets his way, but the state has more than one priority. And before he spends the liquor contract money, there is a serious policy dispute over how the contract should be designed.

LePage has proposed having the state take over some aspects of the liquor business, which he says will let Maine keep more revenue. State Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, says the state did a poor job running the liquor business in the past, and he has a bill that would negotiate better terms but keep it privatized.

Both bills are scheduled for public hearings March 11.

That's not good enough for the governor, who thinks there has been already more than enough time to wrap up this piece of state business.

Republican legislative leaders backed the governor Friday, but they must realize that he has put them in a very difficult position. The governor has all but announced that he is not going to be a constructive player in the upcoming debates.

Anything that gets done this session, including a two-year budget, will have to be the result of a deal between Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature. Anything short of bipartisan compromise will be gridlock, and anyone trying to accomplish anything without give and take will bring on a government shutdown.

The governor has said that he is willing to pay that price if he doesn't get what he wants on the liquor contract, but Republican legislators should be more responsible than that.

All the liquor business proposals deserve a fair hearing. No one should be hurling around ultimatums at this early stage of the process, unless, like most talk radio callers, they're not trying to accomplish anything -- they just like to hear the sound of their own voices.


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