Look out Maine, you’ve got an enemy.

You might have thought it was an opioid epidemic that takes one life a day. Or a stagnant economy that sends talented young people away in search of opportunity. Or it could be a toxic political culture, where every attempt to address a problem turns into a partisan standoff.

But you would be wrong, wrong, wrong.

No, Maine’s biggest problem, according to Paul LePage – and he’s the governor so he should know – is land trusts.

LePage went on public radio’s “Maine Calling” program Tuesday and told host Jennifer Rooks that his “No. 1 problem” for his last year in office will be explaining “so Maine people understand” how a few land conservation deals are shifting tax burden and bankrupting the state.

“People in the state of Maine are constantly screaming about high property taxes and they blame education,” LePage said. “But, folks, it’s not education. We’re allowing people to take land off the tax rolls.”

We could take a few minutes to examine how absurd that claim is.

We could note how state and local taxpayers have to come up with roughly $2 billion every year to pay for schools, making it the biggest driver of any budget.

We could remind ourselves that most of the Maine land held in trusts (94.5 percent) is still on the tax rolls, with most of it owned privately by people who have given away future development rights and welcome public access.

We could do all of that, but what’s the point? Seven years into the LePage era, we have come to understand it just doesn’t matter.

It’s not about land, or taxes or the budget. There is no math to support this notion.

It’s very simple. If LePage doesn’t like someone who likes land trusts, LePage hates land trusts. End of story.

We have been living with this form of government for so long it feels familiar. But it’s not normal.

This isn’t how other Maine governors – Democrats, Republicans and independents – have behaved. It’s not how governors in most other states operate.

We have seen partisanship before. We have had tough debates. The government was forced to shut down over a budget dispute.

But we have never seen one person insert himself in so many places, substituting his judgment for the legislative process or the will of the voters.

This is how it works in Maine and how it’s going to work at least as long as LePage is in office.

Thanks to term limits, those days are about to come to an end. This time next year someone else will take the oath of office and become the state’s chief executive.

There are 11 Democrats, five Republicans, five independents, a Green and a Libertarian running, and every one of them would be different from LePage is some way.

But will Maine ever go back to normal?

Probably not, at least not all the way.

Lawmakers in Augusta may be able to learn to be polite again if they have a nicer governor to work with, but don’t expect the rest of the state to play along.

LePage has spent seven years driving a wedge between people. He spits out words like “welfare,” “liberal” and “elites” as if they were curses. He’ll sit down with Sovereign Citizens, right-wing extremists the FBI considers “domestic terrorists,” but not the NAACP.

He has associated himself and the Maine Republican Party with hard-line positions on immigration and race that make national news, and that reputation will not go away when he does.

LePage has got some Mainers convinced that the rich people in southern Maine are ripping them off, and others believing that rural Mainers must be as angry, mean and uninformed as the governor himself.

Another reason we shouldn’t expect the old political culture to return is because what’s happened here is not unique to Maine.

We used to say that all politics is local, but now national narratives drive debates in the state. Why else would immigration be such a potent issue in Maine, which has so few immigrants and is so far away from the Mexican border?

It’s because cable news and social media set the agenda here, just like they do everywhere else. LePage may go away, but the distrust of politics and politicians is probably going to remain a feature of our public life and an impediment to getting things done.

So no matter who wins this year’s election, that lack of faith in the intentions of people from different backgrounds could be Maine’s biggest problem.

After land trusts, that is.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: gregkesich

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