AUGUSTA — Republican Gov. Paul LePage often quotes former President Calvin Coolidge, who said: “It’s much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.” But LePage’s veto pen isn’t nearly as successful at stopping bills as it once was, as irked lawmakers increasingly keep his rejected bills alive.

Lawmakers have overturned 70 percent of LePage’s vetoes so far this session, compared to less than 20 percent by the previous Legislature, according to an Associated Press review of information compiled by the clerk of the House of Representatives and the Law and Legislative Reference Library.

That’s despite the governor’s own party gaining control of the Senate and several seats in the Democratic-led House last fall.

Observers and lawmakers say LePage’s increasingly bold and aggressive tactics are prompting more and more Republicans to stand up to him. He first vowed to veto all Democratic bills ”“ then extended that threat to all bills ”“ because lawmakers rejected his proposal to hold a referendum on eliminating the income tax, though he has allowed some to become law.

“I think some of it is purely a frustration with the governor,” said Republican Rep. Matt Pouliot. “If the rationale were that this is just really bad legislation, that’s one thing. But the rationale in a number of the (veto) letters was that the Legislature didn’t bend to my will, so therefore I’m going to use my veto pen to make their lives difficult,” he said.

Of the roughly 170 vetoes that lawmakers have considered so far this session, they’ve overridden nearly 120 and plan to return for additional veto votes Thursday. That doesn’t include roughly 150 more line-item vetoes ”“ all of which were overturned by both chambers, according to the House clerk’s office.

The previous Legislature kept alive less than 30 of the more than 150 bills LePage vetoed, according to the law library.

With more than 350 since he took office, LePage long ago smashed the Maine governor veto record. He also recently surpassed former Gov. James Longley for having the most vetoes overturned. Lawmakers rejected 64 of Longley’s vetoes when he served between 1975 and 1979, said Maine political historian Paul Mills.

Attorney General Janet Mills said Friday that LePage missed his chance to veto 20 other bills that have been on his desk for more than 10 days and that the bills have become law. LePage argued that the Constitution grants him the power to nix the bills because lawmakers adjourned last month.

But Mills sided with Democrats, saying that in her opinion the Legislature’s temporary recess doesn’t count as an “adjournment.” LePage is expected to ask the Maine Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue.

Jim Melcher, political science professor at the University of Maine at Farmington, said he thinks that LePage believes that if he stands his ground, it will help him win a new Legislature in 2016 that’s more supportive of his priorities. But, LePage may be overplaying his hand, he said.

“I wouldn’t give it great odds of succeeding, to be honest with you,” he said.

A LePage spokesman said Mainers don’t care about the percentages or number of vetoes.

“Legislators can point the finger at the governor all they want, but when Election Day comes around, they will have to answer for their actions to the Mainers they claim to represent,” Peter Steele said in an email.

Meanwhile, LePage suggested the vetoes are actually designed to bring lawmakers together.

“The whole point of the vetoes is to get two-thirds of the Legislature to work together and I’m succeeding at that,” he told WCSH-TV on Wednesday.

House Republican Leader Ken Fredette dismissed the notion that LePage has frustrated his caucus. In a sense, he said, LePage is empowering the Republican minority in the House by issuing so many vetoes. Since Republicans hold 68 seats in that chamber, they have the ability to kill all of the rejected bills, if they so choose.

But House Democratic Leader Jeff McCabe said that lawmakers are simply sick of the governor’s “vindictive politics.”

“It’s clear that people have had enough,” McCabe said.



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