Despite differences of opinion I have with Gov. LePage, I was pleasantly surprised by his State of the State address. His dignified deportment was a welcome contrast to the vulgarity he displayed during his first term and may bode well for improved behavior in the future. Although I don’t agree with all its provisions, he proposed a state budget that warrants serious consideration and thoughtful discussion.

Regrettably, he has decided to bypass our duly elected representatives and take his proposed budget “directly to the people.” His re-election encouraged him to continue governing in his authoritarian manner.

I suspect LePage will exploit these town hall formats to pander to his hard-core base and regress to his bullying tactics against all who disagree with him. If that is indeed his strategy, he will succeed only in widening the division that afflicts our state.

When the debate rightfully takes place in our Legislature, it would be in the interest of all the people to declare a moratorium on all lobbyists contacting our legislators.

Our lawmakers should concentrate on listening with open minds to constituents regardless of their opinions, while they consider the “hard decisions” called for by LePage. They must find the courage to resist undue pressure from special interests. Let lobbyists be silent during the debate so only the unaffected voice of the people is heard.

LePage and his allies must observe a truce in their cold war with the Democratic minority and be prepared to negotiate compromises in good faith. It will require an environment of respectful bipartisanship to reach fair and reasonable solutions.

Only when our state government truly functions as an instrument “of the people, by the people, for the people,” will we regain the respect due our lawmakers and some semblance of pride in our governor.

Sam Kamin