January 14, 2011

Our View: New administration still finding its way in Augusta

A budget fix proposal looks ripe for quick progress, while a gag order raises concern.

Gov. LePage's first full week in office featured two big announcements: One that gets his administration on track and the other that provides a little bump in the road.

The first is his supplemental budget, which would bring state spending into balance for the remaining five months of the fiscal year.

It pays off most of the state's debt to hospitals and keeps MaineCare solvent for the rest of the year. He supports it with increased revenue and $26 million in savings.

It is designed to get enough Democratic support to win the two-thirds vote needed for it to go into effect quickly. The real fight will come another day, most likely when the biennial budget is presented next month.

In a less deft move, LePage has directed his department heads to clear all media contacts and communications with legislators through his office. As with any business, Le- Page said, the administration should speak with one voice.

That's partly true, but state government is not a business. The Legislature oversees the executive branch and lawmakers need access to information which may not always be flattering to the governor. And lawmakers should not be prevented from advocating for their constituents before the bureaucracy.

It's understandable that LePage wants to control his message during this transition, especially with holdover department heads. But he may soon find that it's not possible -- or desirable -- to control it this tightly.


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