Gov. LePage and his advisers are probably still putting finishing touches on the State of the State address he plans to deliver in Augusta at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

If it’s anything like his budget, we can expect him to stick to the themes he has hit hard for the last six years, which he promises are the path to prosperity for Maine. They are slashing welfare rolls to make more resources available for the “truly needy,” lowering energy costs and cutting income tax rates, even if that means broadening the sales tax and pushing more responsibility onto municipalities and school districts.

The governor has tried all of these ideas before, with varying degrees of success. Rolling them out one more time might feel good, but it’s unlikely to change the divided-government dynamic that has ruled in Augusta since the 2012 election. Starting with the budget, nothing important gets done at the State House without two-thirds support in the House and Senate, and that means that Democrats and Republicans have to find some way to work together.

The governor and his aides haven’t asked us, but we have some free advice for him about the speech: This is the year he should really shake things up.

Instead of recommitting to goals that he can’t achieve, he should put his energy behind programs that have strong bipartisan support and could, with his leadership, really help make the state a better place.

• The opioid crisis: A year ago, lawmakers worked hard to find resources necessary to add Maine drug enforcement agents and increase treatment options. Those goals were only partly met and at any rate would not have been enough.


People are dying at a rate of more than one per day. There is little dispute in the health care community about what works: It’s a combination of inpatient detox, outpatient medication-assisted treatment and counseling.

The state’s decision to deny MaineCare to most childless adults has created a funding crisis for treatment providers and forced some to close their doors when placements should be expanding to meet the need.

Gov. LePage could pledge to make ending the overdose deaths his top priority for his last two years in office, and access federal resources to coordinate the kind of programs that will cut demand for illicit drugs, while law enforcement keeps working to cut supply.

• Senior housing: In 2015, a bipartisan group of legislators and an overwhelming majority of voters approved a $15 million bond to build new affordable apartments for seniors in every Maine county. But the money has never been spent because Gov. LePage won’t issue the bonds.

For a governor who wants to help the elderly and boost rural economies, this is an easy one. Not only do these projects provide needy seniors with safe and comfortable homes, but it creates work for contractors and others in parts of the state that have been hit hard by manufacturing job losses.

Gov. LePage could announce that he is issuing bonds, while at the same time championing the AARP’s Age-Friendly Communities planning standards that would direct additional public and private resources into rebuilding historic downtowns.


• School funding: In poll after poll and in a pair of referendum votes, Mainers have made clear that they want the state to take a bigger role in paying for schools. It is the most expensive service funded at the local level, and it’s the property tax – not the income tax – that is the biggest burden on low- and moderate-income Mainers, especially those on fixed incomes.

School funding supporters passed a referendum last year that would raise more money for schools by increasing taxes on the highest incomes. Gov. LePage has criticized the tax increase and ignored the successful referendum’s goals in his budget proposal, but he would have strong bipartisan support if he proposed a way to meet the state’s legal obligation to fund more than half of education costs.

Term limits bar Gov. LePage from running for a third term next year. He has had his battles with the Legislature, and he has won as many as he has lost. But he simply does not have enough support even in his own party to accomplish the big goals he continues to set for the state

That doesn’t mean, though, that he has to be satisfied with accomplishing nothing. Gov. LePage has two years left in office, which is plenty of time to take on important problems like the opiate epidemic, senior housing and school funding – if he’s willing to reach out and work with others.

That would require a big change of approach for LePage, and this speech would be the time to announce it.

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