Ethan: Suppose you were a member of the least-liked group of people: politicians. What are the two bills you would never propose?

Phil: Hmmm … give ourselves raises and make it harder for people to get rid of us?

Ethan: Correct! And yet that’s exactly what Rep. John Martin did this week.

Phil: John Martin. The reason “we the people” passed term limits in 1992. How ironic.

Ethan: That’s not actually true. Term limits were put on the Maine ballot by an out-of-state conservative movement sweeping the country. Martin was simply their poster boy for Maine. Democratic Party rule caused term limits because Republicans wanted power.

Phil: As Bob Dylan said, “if you remember the ’70s, then you weren’t there.” That clearly holds true for you regarding 1992, a time when the political egos of a few ruthlessly ruled the rest. The bottom line is that Maine voted better than 2-1 in favor of term limits in 1992 and then again in 2007. If my memory serves, weren’t you the sponsor of that later bill?


Ethan: I was clearly ahead of my time, since now Gov. Paul LePage says term limits should go, as does the head of Maine’s most right-wing partisan think tank, Matt Gagnon. People are smart enough to decide for themselves if they want to re-elect someone with experience or toss ’em out on their keister.

Phil: They are also smart enough to know that term limits block politicians from building power through backroom deals and ultimately forces them to go home and live by the laws they created.

Ethan: And forces open a door for inexperienced legislators or non-elected people, namely lobbyists, taking control of our government. Do you feel government has become more responsive in the past 20 years since term limits were put in place? Most people I know do not. Perhaps that is why seven states have repealed the term limits they instituted when this anti-democratic wave hit.

Phil: I recall the “experts” saying that special interest money was corrupting candidates, so now we have taxpayers footing the bill for so-called “Clean Elections.” Yet special interest money still flows. Are you saying get rid of “clean elections?” Of course not. Term limits haven’t solved every problem, but they have helped keep power from consolidating. Besides, as I said, “we the people” have already spoken. Twice!

Ethan: “We the people” also voted twice on the income tax. Once to implement it (1972) and once to not cut it (2010), but yet you still fight to get rid of it. OK, how about pay raises? I am sure you support a livable wage for your former colleagues.

Phil: I do, which is what they make now. Legislators are part time, and for a part-time job they earn reasonable pay, reimbursement for travel, accommodations, meals, free health insurance and participation in the retirement plan. Seems pretty good to me.


Ethan: You know as well as I do it is way more than a part-time job. At basically $12,000 a year, you end up only getting those who are independently wealthy, retired or those who have to work multiple jobs. Martin’s bill would only increase this combined amount to about $20,000 a year, still half the median household income in Maine. Let me offer a compromise. How about we reduce the size of each body and redistribute the savings in the form of wages?

Phil: I’m listening.

Ethan: If we reduce the size of the House from 151 to 99 members and the Senate from 35 to 31, we would save well over $1.4 million. How about we simply use that money to increase the pay of the remaining legislators? That would bring the wage to about $18,000 a year.

Phil: I might be able to embrace your idea if you allowed a court to decide the new district boundaries. This much change cannot be left to our former colleagues or the gerrymandering would be brutal.

Ethan: I am good with that.

Phil: Now, about the governor’s pay. What everyone forgets when they mention the governor “only” makes $70,000 a year, is that he/she also gets room, board, travel, heat, electricity, dessert and after-dinner drinks for free. Plus, unlimited paid vacation, $30,000 unaudited for expenses, free health insurance and a pension for life at age 65. Compared to the average Mainer, that’s is plenty don’t you think?


Ethan: Even with your list of bennies, the truth is that our governor is the lowest paid in the United States. It is sad that we devalue good work in Maine so much. It sets a bad example for businesses and for workers.

Phil: I’ll tell you what, if our governor is able to eliminate the income tax, thereby giving everyone a raise, then I will gladly support a raise for him. How about it?

Ethan: If he eliminates the income tax, our sales and property taxes will be so high, no middle class families will survive. Then we won’t even have enough money to pay him what he makes now!

Phil: With your love of government, I am sure we’ll find a way.

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