Don’t let the vetoes fool you. This is Paul LePage’s budget.

The governor has used every trick at his disposal to avoid taking responsibility for the state’s spending priorities. He even appeared with some custom-designed Christmas ornaments and a squeaky pig toy to mock legislative leaders for the budget deal they hammered out behind closed doors last week – rushing to get it on his desk so they would have time to override an all-but-certain veto before the state government shut down.

This was not the budget LePage presented to the state in January, but it was the only kind that could have gotten the necessary two-thirds support from the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratically-controlled House unless the governor was prepared to show some extraordinary leadership. Instead, disparate lawmakers balanced interests and traded priorities and came up with a compromise budget that could get the votes it would need.

To become law, LePage’s budget and tax reform plan would have required a one-of-a-kind coalition of liberals and conservatives willing to put aside their party ideology and pass sweeping tax reform. But this governor is not interested in building coalitions of any kind, not even within his own party.

What he has done is given himself an out. He didn’t participate in the budget so he’s not responsible. Whenever the government fails, it’s somebody else’s fault. To hear him tell it, the most powerful political leader in the state is just another victim.

LePage can howl about how the Legislature did not completely eliminate the state income tax – a reckless goal that would have bankrupted Maine – but he undersells how much influence he has had.

Because of the 2011 LePage tax cut, which mostly benefits the wealthy, Maine lawmakers had to find $170 million a year in lost revenue. This year, they filled part of that hole with a $35 million a year cut to municipal revenue sharing, a LePage target, which will result in service cuts and property tax increases on the local level.

Legislative negotiators produced a far better budget than any that LePage would have signed. New income tax cuts were targeted to middle-income taxpayers, and an increased homestead exemption will soften the impact of the loss of revenue sharing. So will more money for state school aid. Things could have been much worse.

But don’t let the governor’s protestations fool you. He played a bigger role in this legislative session than he lets on.

When he was called on to bring people together, he created division. When strong leadership was needed, he retreated. Now he wants to blame others for the failure of his administration. No one, particularly the members of his own party, should let him.

The state’s roads are crumbling, we have a shortage of senior housing and young people are leaving because of a lack of opportunity. Traditional industries are disappearing or scaling back, and there is no clear direction from Augusta about where the new jobs will come from.

The governor is not the leader of an anti-government movement. He is the leader of the government. When the government fails, it’s not proof that he was right, it’s proof that he didn’t lead in the right direction.

The governor made a spectacle of himself Wednesday, standing outside his office squeaking a rubber pig. He looked like he was having fun, but when it was time for him to work hard and bridge divisions between the parties – or even within his own party – he had nothing to offer but lame jokes.

If Gov. LePage wants to stand outside the process and mock, he should get a talk radio show. He has been trusted with high office, and the people of the state deserve much more than we have seen.

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