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Paul LePage

Sippy Cups vs. Jobs - A False Choice

While many Mainers were enjoying a romantic and chocolate-laden Valentine's Day, hundreds of their neighbors spent the day at the State House, where the Regulatory Fairness & Reform Committee met from 9 am until nearly 7 pm taking testimony on LD 1 and the Governor's Phase 1 regulatory reform plan, including a 48-page amendment that was handed to the Committee during the public hearing. The testimony was overwhelmingly in opposition to the Governor's plan, echoing what we heard at 7 regional hearings over the past 3 weeks - watch the videos here.

On Monday, the Committee heard from the Governor's legal counsel, Dan Billings, who made it clear that while several of the most controversial rollbacks in in Phase 1 were left out of the amendment (for example, the Kids-Safe Products Act, banning Bis-A from sippy cups, clean air protections, eliminating LURC and zoning 3 million acres for development), Governor LePage has NOT backed away from these rollbacks and will be supporting legislation to implement them as we go forward. Read more »

Public Workers Will Fight LePage's Budget

Public sector employees and teachers are mobilizing their brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors and families. They are joining with fellow Mainers from Kittery to Fort Kent. They are not going to sit idly by and watch a lifetime of work go up in smoke with the stroke of a pen.

They are asking their State Senators and Representatives to oppose Governor LePage’s proposed two-year state budget, which would weaken the economic, health and retirement security of tens of thousands of Maine workers and retired workers. It would substantially diminish the employment benefits necessary to attract and retain Maine’s next generation of workers.

The conversations that are happening between public workers and teachers and legislators are respectful, informed discussions about how Maine workers and retired workers deserve to be treated. They are discussions about how public services are best delivered with the highest level of accountability in Maine. It’s so important that our State Senators and State Representatives hear that all Maine workers deserve to be treated fairly and with respect, and that the State of Maine has a special obligation to keep its promises to retired workers. Read more »

LePage's Transparent Hypocrisy

My column in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel today is about the LePage administration breaking its promises of transparency, particularly regarding the influence of out-of-state corporations and their lobbyists on proposed environmental rollbacks. It relies heavily on some great investigative journalism done by Colin Woodard and Susan Sharon.

Since I wrote the column, the LePage administration has announced that Carlisle McLean will be joining their team as Senior Policy Advisor. McLean also worked at the law and lobbying firm Preti Flaherty, where, according to current and past reporting from MPBN, she lobbied for the Toy Industry Association against the ban on the toxic chemical bisphenol A. McLean is not listed as having represented the organization in the state lobbying database.

LePage staffers Dan Demeritt and Dan Billings both emailed me today to push back on some of the examples of apparent dishonesty by the administration. Read more »

Paul LePage, Maine's Education Governor?

In an indication of what passes for progressive policy these days, Governor LePage’s first budget remarkably stems the recent slide in state aid to local education, holding the perennial shortfall steady at a mere $180 million below what the state calculates as its legal obligation to ensure Maine students an adequate and equitable education.

Indeed the Governor has gone to some length to assure citizens that he intends his administration to support education - even while expecting both frugal efficiency and an apparently contradictory expansion of pathways toward more rigorous achievement.

Amplifying and ranging a bit off-road from his prepared text, in his budget address to the Legislature on Thursday the Governor declared that he intends Maine to become a national leader in educational standards.

Within the constraints of current revenues, this is a prospect which will be exciting both for its challenges and its performance demands on all school stakeholders, from Kindergarteners up, not just those commonly labeled as the educational establishment. But it’s also a discussion that all should welcome, as the project gets right to the heart of our essential expectations for public education in Maine. Read more »

In Both Egypt and Maine, Jobs Underpin Politics

I drive a lot, and if there’s one thing that keeps me from going crazy with boredom in the car, it’s listening to public radio. Today, the two big stories are about President Mubarak finally ceding power in Egypt and, here at home, LePage’s budget proposal. It’s hard to grasp the truly historic events in Egypt, especially while looking out at our quiet, snow-covered state from the Turnpike. Nevertheless, there is a common thread in both stories: stubborn economic problems and joblessness, not just here in the US, but around the world.

Governor Paul LePage presented his two year budget yesterday, and managed to raise a lot of eyebrows with something that is normally a routine, if weighty, announcement. In the words of one experienced observer, "to add to our $840 million shortfall by extending additional tax cuts to, at least in part, some of the most well-off people in our state at the same time as taking away benefits from some of the most vulnerable households in the state is just a bad policy choice," said Kit St. John of the Maine Center for Economic Policy. "It doesn't add up. It doesn't make sense."

The biggest head-scratcher from LePage yesterday? How he could deliver a speech that focused on scapegoating immigrants and the poor, and then claim that he was outlining a "jobs bill." Read more »

LePage's Corporate Puppeteers

My latest story in the Portland Phoenix is on how Maine Gov. Paul LePage is outsourcing the writing of his much-touted regulatory reform package to corporate lobbyists. They, not surprisingly, have the interests of their out-of-state corporate clients first in mind, the suffering small businessman: maybe not so much.

MPBN's Susan Sharon beat me into "print" on how the governor's official "Phase 1" regulatory reform document has PretiFlaherty document numbers stamped on it. In this story, the governor's communications director confirms Preti lobbyist's role in the drafting of the regulations, and I show what their clients have gotten out of it so far.

And its not just Preti. Pierce Atwood's managing partner was in on the act, and their clients wishes made the list as well. Will be interesting to see who benefits from "phase two" and beyond.

(Cross-posted from World Wide Woodard)

Fixing Your Feedback Loops

Last week, I was (and still am) as upset and concerned about Governor LePage’s attack on our environmental regulations as most readers of this blog. Unfortunately, I must share that there was something much more disturbing that happened to me THIS week: the realization that many of my well-read acquaintances and neighbors still did not comprehend the magnitude of Governor LePage’s attacks, and, moreover, completely misunderstood what he was up to in future "deregulation" bids.

As most of you know, Governor LePage has proposed the destruction of years of environmental legislation that has protected the health and well-being of Mainers. He likes to call this Phase one. Phase two, as the Governor has proposed, will be the deregulation of other industries including, but probably not limited to, labor and agriculture. Read more »

How Maine Really Ranks in School ‘Achievement’

For the past few years, as pressures on Maine’s education budgets have increased, some members of the state business community have pushed back with a claim that student achievement in Maine schools now lags national averages.

The case, in brief, is that Maine schools are not only expensive but also substandard and therefore ripe for radical reorganization guided by hard-nosed tools from the private sector.

David Flanagan, the former CEO of Central Maine Power, raised this alarm while addressing the Portland Chamber of Commerce last February and amplified it ten days later in a Press Herald Op-Ed.

During his campaign, Paul LePage picked up the theme, telling the Waterville Rotary in August that "...currently in the State of Maine, we are in the top third in spending and in the bottom third in results. We need to flip-flop that."

Most recently the same analysis found root on the web in a satire page which identified Maine for distinction as “the dumbest state.” Read more »

61%ers Organize Against LePage

Today at Down East I take a look at the creators of and strategy behind the 61% movement, which is quickly gaining ground on Facebook.

The name of the group is a reference to a low-ball estimate of the percentage of voters who cast a ballot for a candidate other than Governor Paul LePage in the last election.

In addition to what I mention about him in the post, it's interesting to note that 61% co-founder Chris Korzen has also written a book about Catholicism in politics and has had the honor of being singled out for attack by none other than Ann Coulter.

Real Backers of LePage's Anti-Environment Agenda

Some great reporting from Susan Sharon at MPBN yesterday caught the LePage administration making another false statement. Spokesman Dan Demeritt claimed that opposition to the Kid-Safe Products Act came from the Maine Grocers Association, when in fact the organization has no position on the law.

As the piece explains, and I've also mentioned, the real force behind the attacks on Maine's environmental and public health protections is coming from out-of-state interests like the American Chemistry Council, which represents large chemical and plastic manufacturing companies.