You have to hand it to Gov. LePage – he does not give up easily.

He campaigned for months against Question 2, which raises money for schools with a 3 percent surtax on the highest incomes. LePage warned that the levy would wreck the economy and threatened to move away from Maine if it passed, but somehow the voters passed it anyway.

Then he submitted a budget that would twist the tax code in such a way that it would actually cut the income tax rate for the highest earners and push more responsibility for funding schools onto local property-tax payers.

That’s gotten a cool response even from Republicans who had agreed with the governor that income tax rates are too high.

Now he has turned the whole complex exercise of balancing benefits and harms – which is required to successfully reform tax and education policy – into a personal attack against a single lawmaker whom most Mainers have never heard of.

Nice try, governor, but this one shouldn’t work either.


Gov. LePage has taken to the airwaves to claim that Taxation Committee Co-chair Ryan Tipping, a Democratic state representative from Orono, has a conflict of interest because he took a paid position as a political consultant with the Question 2 campaign last year. LePage has declared that this proves that Tipping’s vote is for sale, that he is not representing the people in his district and that he should resign his seat in the Legislature.

As is so often the case, the governor’s argument sounds better if you don’t look at the facts. Tipping is an elected official who ran for office promising to get more money for schools, so supporting the referendum would hardly be an abandonment of his constituents. Offered a job with the Question 2 campaign, Tipping checked with the state ethics commission and was advised that it would not be a conflict of interest.

It would be impossible to run a citizen legislature if this kind of professional involvement made a lawmaker ineligible to serve. You could never have a lawyer on the Judiciary Committee, a retired teacher on Education or anybody on Appropriations who had ever worked for a business that had contact with the state.

But wait a minute – Question 2 is not about Tipping, or about his brother Mike, a liberal activist whom the governor likes to bring up in his rants.

The question before the people of Maine was not whether we like the Tipping brothers, but whether Maine should spend more money on education. The people said “yes.”

The governor may not agree with their decision, and he may believe that he has better ideas for running the state, but there was an election, and his side lost. Even though LePage would rather fight about Ryan Tipping’s resumé, lawmakers should be smart enough to focus on the work that stands before them.

The Legislature should now address the law approved at the polls and come up with the best way to provide those funds to school districts, improving education and reducing pressure on property-tax payers. It’s not going to be easy – taxation and education policy never are.

They will have to tune out the governor’s campaign of distraction if they are going to deliver the sound policy the people have demanded.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.