When we said exactly a year ago that 2018 would find the State House mired in a stalemate, it was more a statement of fact than a prediction – after the pointless 2017 government shutdown, just about anyone could’ve seen that coming.

A year later, however, the landscape in Augusta has changed dramatically, and there’s reason to hope that 2019 will be marked by reasonable, working government.

That has been sorely missed in the Paul LePage era. The governor engineered the 2017 shutdown along with House Republicans, only to pass virtually the same budget proposed as a compromise by Senate Republicans weeks earlier. The same crew then created a similar crisis in 2018, extending past Labor Day work that should have been done in April.

Voters noticed. In November, they gave Democrat Janet Mills a convincing victory in the race to replace LePage. They also gave the Democrats a majority in the Senate and extended their advantage in the House.

The same election that gave Democrats a resounding win leaves Republicans diminished – because of term limits and election losses, no member of last year’s Republican State House leadership returned to the 129th Legislature.

It’s an opportunity for Democrats to show that they can govern in a way that LePage never wanted to. They can push through reasonable legislation aimed at solving Maine’s biggest problems. The issues facing health care, energy, infrastructure and workforce will be looked at differently, now by an administration more interested in finding solutions than breaking down government.


Mills has promised to expand Medicaid on her first day, something LePage has refused to do in the year since voters approved expansion at the polls. As a result, at least 70,000 low-income Mainers will receive health care, and the state will take a big step toward addressing the opioid epidemic.

She has also released a clear-headed economic development plan aimed at counteracting the job-growth stagnation forecasted for the next decade.

In choosing members of her Cabinet, Mills also has indicated how she will lead. So far, she has picked thoughtful, capable nominees with deep experience in public service.

It is perhaps a signal that a productive, drama-free session is in store. There will be difficult decisions and heated debates, to be sure, as Democrats figure out how to satisfy different constituencies within the party, now emboldened by their big win. They’ll have to figure out how to pay for Medicaid, and increased municipal revenue-sharing and school funding, among other priorities. And they’ll still likely need Republican help to pass a budget.

But the personal attacks, obstruction and unstable governance of the LePage era may be leaving along with him. That’s good news for legislators – Democrats, Republicans and independents alike – who want to spend time working out tough matters together.

Talking to The Boston Globe, Dana Dow, the new Republican leader in the Senate, said of Mills: “She will be a kinder, gentler governor – somebody who shows more respect to individuals. We will be happy to work with her.”

Signs of a functional government in Augusta – who could’ve seen that coming?

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