Phil: Did Portland Mayor Michael Brennan just pass a minimum-wage increase that he had no clue would double the staffing costs for every restaurateur in the city?

Ethan: Yup. Similarly, did Gov. Paul LePage claim to “pocket veto” 70 bills even though the Constitution doesn’t allow such an act until after the Legislature has officially adjourned “sine die”?

Phil: For those who didn’t study Latin in high school, that means, “adjourning without day.”

Ethan: Or, in plain English, “the Legislature has left town and they’re not coming back until the potatoes have been dug up for supper.”

Phil: Who would have imagined in this era of instant knowledge that our state’s two highest elected chief executives – one on the far left, the other on the far right – would have provided us with such comedic relief by revealing how much government can look like a “Who’s on First?” shtick?

Ethan: The good news is that the unintended consequences of their slapstick is that some of our lowest income Mainers, tipped workers and asylee seekers will now see their incomes rise and assistance restored.


Phil: The bitter news is that if LePage did make an error in interpretation, it will cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and Brennan’s cluelessness will cost Portland small businesses hundreds of thousands.

Ethan: Whichever way you look at it, the means to these outcomes are ridiculous.

Phil: You could only make this stuff up in an April Fool’s column or a warm-up joke for the crowd at one of our speaking engagements: “A governor and a mayor walk into a bar …”

Ethan: “… the governor demands bourbon and the mayor demands scotch. When they each receive milk, the bartender says, didn’t you realize you were in a children’s museum?”

Phil: You do know that joke was lame, right?

Ethan: You started it!


Phil: Obviously we shouldn’t give up our day jobs for the comedy circuit. Interestingly, on the minimum-wage increase, Brennan had cozied up to the restaurant industry for over a year promising he would protect their bottom lines from increased staffing costs. Low and behold, he doubles them.

Ethan: Sounds like contributions from Portland restaurants to the “re-elect Mike Brennan” PAC just dried up.

Phil: Forget re-elect, maybe a “recall for incompetence” provision of your city charter. Your mayor can’t say it was a mistake due to their “rushing the decision.” The law was studied longer than Congress debated Obamacare. And yet the Portland City Council still seems to have no clue what they voted on.

Ethan: What’s worse, the debate is now about how raising the minimum wage for tipped employees, some of our lowest paid workers in the city – wait staff, maids, busboys – is a bad thing. Instead of celebrating that they got a much-deserved boost in pay, we are now criticizing their increase to $6.35 an hour. Que terrible!

Phil: Credit Brennan for that. When he “expressed surprise” to the Press Herald that the bill would increase tipped wages and started asking the reporter how to fix the “problem,” the stage was set.

Ethan: How hard was it to simply say, “I’ll get back to you,” or “I am glad they are getting a raise. Wish it was more”?


Phil: On LePage’s gaffe, can you imagine if you are the staffer who advised him a “pocket veto” would work? If it had been me, a courier would have delivered my letter of resignation before the sun hit the top of Cadillac Mountain.

Ethan: Let’s hope he doesn’t try to “pass the buck,” the way Portland claimed “legal counsel” told them they had acted correctly. On something this important, the governor should have checked it himself or had multiple opinions weigh in. A simple reading of Article IV, Section 20 could have given him the answer.

Phil: You don’t need a degree from the Muskie School of Public Service to discern the Constitution. A call to the clerk of the House or the secretary of the Senate office might have made it clear that LePage’s “pocket vetoes” were not legit because the Legislature had not adjourned “sine die,” even though they used the word adjournment in the order they passed.

Ethan: Which means all those laws went into effect. Republican Rep. Norman Higgins has now said, “This is the last straw for me. I can no longer support the governor. … We need to express our ‘no confidence’ in him.” You ready for a “no confidence” vote?

Phil: No, because the Constitution protects us from situations like this. The bills will simply become law. Is anyone laughing yet?

Ethan: You want to know the greatest irony of this “accidental compassion” by the governor, as Portland Councilor Jon Hinck described it? The sponsor of the bill that has now become law is none other than Republican Sen. Eric Brakey.


Phil: Our “Rookie of the Year” in last week’s column. What’s the irony?

Ethan: His original bill was designed to deny benefits for asylees. It was amended on the floor to provide the benefits, so now the law that protects these new Mainers has his name attached to it.

Phil: Above all, we appear to have two leaders who are so driven by ideology that they overlooked the Constitution they must operate within or the factual reading of the legislation they champion.

Ethan: And for a guy like me who believes in the good of government, incompetence by public sector leaders, from either side but especially from the left, is very disheartening.

Comments are no longer available on this story