Monday, December 9, 2013
We can understand if Republicans and Democrats fight when they disagree. But when they are on the same side and fight anyway, it makes no sense at all.
Though everyone in Augusta – Democratic lawmakers, Republican lawmakers and even Gov. LePage – agrees the state needs to issue bonds to make crucial investments in its roads and bridges, a fight is shaping up over how best to do it.
2004 File Photo/John Ewing
The sniping by Gov. LePage and his Republican allies in the Legislature over issuing much-needed bonds is unnecessary and unproductive. It politicizes an issue that doesn't need to be political, and it could get in the way of raising the money we need to invest in Maine's economy.
Although everyone -- even Gov. LePage -- agrees that we need to issue bonds to make investments in infrastructure, a fight is shaping up over how best to do it.
Democratic leaders have asked the Appropriations Committee to look at a bond package that combines spending on roads and bridges with other neglected needs, including research and development and protecting natural resources.
Republican House Leader Ken Fredette was critical of the approach, calling it an example of Democrats "using the process to embarrass Republicans or embarrass the governor."
Fredette is jumping the gun. The bond issues will be worked on by the Appropriations Committee, one of the few places where bipartisan cooperation is still reliably occurring.
The members of that committee work hard to reach consensus, and their recommendations tend to be unanimous and attract two-thirds support from the Legislature. The latest example was the two-year budget deal that passed over a gubernatorial veto.
If the governor is embarrassed, it's not the Democrats' fault: His high-handed political manipulation of the state's bonding power has been shameful.
He refused to issue voter-approved bonds for more than a year, and then held the bonds hostage while he was trying to get the Legislature to act on his hospital repayment ideas.
If Republicans in the Legislature are embarrassed, it's not because of anything the Democrats did. They have stuck with the governor even when he called on them to make votes that were bad for the state's economy. Just one example came the week after Republicans upheld the governor's veto on the Medicaid expansion bill, which contributed to MaineHealth's decision to cut 400 jobs through early retirement incentives.
Democrats and Republicans have no reason to fight. Both want to pass a bond package. To reach the voters, the package will first need two-thirds support in the House and Senate. That's going to take compromise.
To achieve that, lawmakers should start focusing on the areas on which they agree and try to build from there.
Jumping immediately to the points of contention is fighting for the sake of fighting and not what Maine needs.