Gov. Paul LePage emailed state employees this week to thank them for a successful charitable drive that began in September. Since they met the goal of raising $300,000, LePage said, he would also hold up his end of a deal he made with the employees early this year: He would close state offices the day after Christmas.

Two days later, LePage sent another email with more good news for state employees:

“In addition to this time off, I am pleased to announce my decision to administratively close these same State offices and facilities at noon on (Christmas Eve),” he wrote. “It is my hope that closing these locations early on Christmas Eve will give you and your family additional time to travel and enjoy the traditional observances of the holiday.”

Awww. Nice gesture, right? Especially given the combative history between LePage and the Maine State Employees Association, the union representing state workers. The battles between the two sides are numerous, from protests sparked by the removal of a labor mural at the Maine Department of Labor, to LePage referring to middle management in state government as “corrupt,” to the tension surrounding the governor’s unusual decision to call a civil emergency in 2013.

The truth is, the two sides have been adversaries since LePage was elected in 2010. The MSEA has not only opposed the governor on policy initiatives, but the union has also given money to political action committees that attempted to defeat him in this year’s election. The animosity is rooted in the simple fact that the governor has repeatedly said that state government is too big, too wasteful.

Now that he’s been reelected, LePage has vowed to “right-size” state government. That’s a nice way of saying that he plans to shrink it, and that likely means a reduction of government jobs. How LePage plans to achieve this is unclear, but it will likely be revealed when he presents his two-year budget proposal Jan. 9.

For context, below is an interactive of state government employment from the Maine Center for Workforce Research and Information. The blue line represents the overall level of state government jobs. The other lines show specific employment sectors, such service providers and educational services. You can toggle the interactive to show specific date ranges since 2001. You can also toggle the graphic to show wages paid since 2001.



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