April 10, 2013

Greg Kesich: LePage still drives the agenda in Augusta

The governor seems more comfortable in a divided government than he did when he had majorities.

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In January, LePage dropped an ugly budget on the Legislature that would be balanced by flat-funding schools and higher education and cutting programs like revenue sharing, general assistance and property tax rebates that help keep municipalities afloat.

He didn't touch his signature tax cuts, which, among other things, lower the top rates for the highest wage earners and exempts the first $2 million, instead of $1 million, of an estate's value from taxation.

Democrats immediately called the LePage budget a shift to property-tax payers, and they're right, but it's up to them to find a way around it, not the governor. And the combination of tax hikes, program cuts and gimmicks they are bound to come up with to replace LePage's budget won't be pretty.

As one Republican told me, "The governor doesn't have to pass a budget, he just has to present one."

It may be premature to declare LePage the champ of 2013, but I've been hasty before (like when I wrote in 2011 that he had made himself irrelevant with his intemperate public speaking).

Maybe he will have to pay a price for being inconsistent. Maybe it might come back to haunt him that he's often wrong on the facts or that he will usually sacrifice the little guy to help big business.

But until then, you've got to admit, he's having a good year.

 

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at 791-6481 or at gkesich@pressherald.com

 

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