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 »

Tea Party Activist to Challenge Sen. Snowe

As long expected, Maine Tea Party Patriots coordinator Andrew Ian Dodge has announced his intention to challenge Sen. Olympia Snowe in the Republican primary next year.

I wrote about Mr. Dodge earlier this winter at Newsweek.com, as he is perhaps the most visible figure in a Libertarian effort to fend off the Christian Right's growing influence in the Tea Party movement. Social issues, he argues, don't matter; getting government out of people's lives does. While no fan of Maine's Tea Party-backed governor, Paul LePage, Dodge is also hostile to Sen. Snowe, who he denounces as Republican In Name Only.

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 »

Facts and Questions About Collins' New House

It's worth stressing upfront: I have no grounds to believe there's anything improper or untoward about Sen. Collins' recent Washington house purchase.

That said, none of the public discussion so far has addressed--let alone answered--the very salient, public interest-minded questions that the purchase raises.

Since no one seems particularly inclined to put these questions to the junior senator, what follows is an attempt to get a handful of relevant facts on the table and draw attention to some of those outstanding questions: 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 »

Focus on Cutler Files Distracts from Worse Violators

"Finally, we can turn the page on one of the sorriest chapters in Maine's mostly proud political history", said the editorial page of the Maine Sunday Telegram on January 30, in a sharply worded editorial condemning a violation of state campaign finance laws.

Reading only that, one might reasonably conclude that the editors were speaking of the actions of the Republican State Leadership Committee. Eleven days before the election last November, the Alexandria, Virginia based RSLC spent $400,000 on TV, radio and mail in opposition to five Democratic State Senate Candidates. More importantly, the RSLC violated state law by failing to report these expenditures on time. All five of their targets were using Maine Clean Elections Act funds, and were deprived of timely matching funding to respond to the attacks. All five were defeated.

Such a sizable late expenditure that fails to comply with Maine’s excellent system of campaign finance reporting is indeed alarming and worthy of strong condemnation.

Sadly, that’s not what the Telegram was doing. No, they were putting-in what we can only hope is the final word on the dreaded "Cutler Files": the website critical of Eliot Cutler, created by Dennis Bailey and Thom Rhoads. Read more »