Linda Valentino

Linda Valentino

Last week, Gov. Paul LePage broke with decades of tradition to deliver his “State of the State” remarks in writing, rather than in a speech to the people’s elected representatives in the State House.

Frankly, I was happy to do without the pomp and circumstance. Unfortunately, the governor’s letter amounted to an eight-page, insulting, not a substantive “address” about the current state of Maine.

It’s a pretty popular pastime these days to beat up on elected officials. But what makes Maine special is our system of electing regular Mainers, not career politicians, to the Legislature. Our lawmakers have day jobs. They serve part-time, and are paid relatively little to do the important work of their constituents.

So when the governor insults us for refusing to be the rubber stamp he so desperately wants us to be, he’s really insulting all of you – those who chose with your votes to give us your voice in the State House.

You’ve probably read all about the governor’s remarks, and know that rather than a blueprint for how to make Mainers’ lives better, he delivered us insults and the same tired talking points about tax cuts for the rich that he’s given us for years.

He accused us of wasting time, and playing “political games.” But this is the same governor who vetoed a record number of bills last year, a move he said was specifically designed to “waste a little of (the Legislature’s) time.” Often, the vetoes were pure spite, with Gov. LePage blocking bills for no reason other than he didn’t like the bill’s sponsor.

But Republicans and Democrats alike stood strong. We got pretty good at dealing with the governor’s pointless vetoes last year. With lightning speed, we overrode every single one of his 64 line-item budget vetoes, without debate.

His criticism about “political games” would be laughable if it weren’t so hypocritical. This is the same governor who held voter-approved conservation projects hostage in an attempt to blackmail lawmakers into supporting his plan to sell off more public recreation land to lumber companies. We held strong, and his effort at political arm-twisting failed.

This is the same governor who – I’m not kidding – carts out Christmas trees and toy pigs to make convoluted points at press conferences. The nation watched in bemusement as the governor of our great state stared blankly into a camera and squeezed a little rubber piglet until it oinked.

Talk about pointless games.

So where the governor squandered his opportunity to deliver a real State of the State, I’d like to tell you where I think Maine is, and where it could be going.

Our state faces its share of problems. Mills are closing. Young people are leaving our state. The number of Mainers going hungry is growing when it should be shrinking. And more and more of our people are falling victim to drug abuse and addiction.

We in the Legislature – despite the governor’s best attempts to block progress at every turn – have made strides to address those problems, and we’ll keep doing so this year.

But our state also has opportunities. Its people have a work ethic that I’d pit against anyone else in the world. Our heritage economies in agriculture, fisheries and natural resources and our growing brand as a food and cultural destination give us a quality of life unlike any other. Our tireless teachers, veterans and entrepreneurs go to work every day to provide for their families and improve the future of our state.

If we can harness our strengths and work together to overcome our problems, we can do big things. That will take not only the work of the Legislature, but real leadership from our state’s chief executive.

I only hope he’ll decide to be part of the solution, and stop being such a problem.

Sen. Linda Valentino of Saco, represents Senate District 31.

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