AUGUSTA — The Portland Press Herald has singled out me and House Republicans as the reason the Legislature went home early and failed to do the right thing for the Maine people (“Our View: Republican hardball puts key services at risk,” May 17).

This couldn’t be further from the truth – I have been working every day to implement good public policy for the people of Maine while the Legislature has been playing silly political games for months. And the House Republicans are limited in what they can do because they are in the minority.

VACUUM OF LEADERSHIP

So the Press Herald should put the blame squarely where it belongs: on the speaker of the House and the Democrats who hold the majority. The failure to complete the people’s work is not because of a minority in the House; it’s because of the vacuum of leadership in the majority.

Speaker of the House Sara Gideon presides over the Democratic majority. Rather than sit down with Republicans and negotiate, Speaker Gideon accused us of being terrorists. Then she killed Republican bills – bills that proposed good public policies – for no reason. Republicans put in bills to provide funding for workers for the elderly and disabled, opioid treatment, county jails, people on waiting lists and nursing homes. Speaker Gideon killed them.

She wouldn’t address tax conformity, which would give tax relief to hardworking Mainers and small businesses. She even tabled a bill that would help the elderly stay in their homes – or at least keep their equity if they were facing tax-lien foreclosures.

Speaker Gideon would rather throw the elderly out on the street and hike taxes on hardworking Mainers than give a Republican-backed bill a win.

She and the Democrats refuse to slow down the increase in the minimum wage, which will have a devastating effect on Maine’s economy in 2020.

She and the Democrats are content to leave Mainers with intellectual and physical disabilities, as well as the elderly, on waiting lists for services. I have been fighting for years to provide funding for these services, but Democrats stripped funding from the budget.

QUID PRO QUO GOVERNING

Speaker Gideon sets the agenda for the legislative session, but she kept the schedule light. Sometimes she had the Legislature in session for less than two hours a day. Then, after wasting months of time, she tried to extend the session, but not by negotiating. An email from an advocate for addiction and mental health services revealed that the speaker met with advocates and lobbyists and urged them not to work with Republicans.

The email said that if the advocates can convince the Republicans to extend the session, Gideon promised to help pass key bills sponsored by the advocates. This is political payola at its worst.

It is not good governance. It does not help the Maine people. Gideon does not work across the aisle or reach out to the Governor’s Office. Her failure to lead resulted in a state shutdown last summer, and it has led to a stalemate this session. She has left hundreds of bills to die – bills the Legislature has been avoiding for months.

Now, after arbitrarily killing their bills and calling them terrorists, Gideon expects House Republicans to come back with smiles on their faces and agree to extend the session. Speaker Gideon and Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson met with me last week, hoping I would call the Legislature back into session.

PARTISAN GAME-PLAYING

But they only want to deal with Democrats’ bills, and they want to pass Medicaid expansion without any funding to pay for it by tying it to other legislation, rather than letting it stand on its own merits. These are the partisan games that turn people off to politics – and the Portland Press Herald is perpetuating the problem.

Instead of blaming me and a minority of Republicans, the Press Herald should be demanding that Speaker Gideon – and Senate President Mike Thibodeau – call the Legislature back into session and make sure legislators complete the work the people of Maine elected them to do. The elderly, the disabled and the hardworking taxpayers are depending on it, and they deserve it. Don’t let Gideon and the Democrats off the hook.

 


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