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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Maine Governor Paul LePage and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

Maine's Governor LePage

Maine's Governor Paul LePage and the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are like dysfunctional bookends. 

Of course, if the two Republicans were really bookends, we could put both of them in a drawer or behind a pile of files, so they would be out of harm's way. Nevertheless, both LePage and Christie apparently thrive on creating controversy.

If Lepage and Christie were a vaudeville act, they'd be like Alphonse and Gaston, both trying to enter the political arena through the same door. Obviously, the two men can hardly fit in the same back seat of a car, never mind make a political entrance through the same door.  
Gov. Chris Christie with his nemesis "Bridgegate"

Both men are in over their heads with political controversy.  

Nevertheless, in fancifully political delusional thinking, each believes there's enough political capital to support their ambitious goals. 

Christie wants to be President of the United States.  Oh paaaaleeeze..!!..like electing a Macy's parade balloon. Bridgegate, the George Washington Bridge traffic jam controversy, will follow
Christie, like the dust hanging over the Charlie Brown "Pig Pen" character.

On the other hand, LePage wants to run the state of Maine like he's a dictator. His tyrannical gubernatorial behavior continues to upstage his entire administration.  Governor LePage is the prototype for Humpty Dumpty.  His behavior exemplifies the last line of the rhyme.  "All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put LePage together again."

New Jersey has Macy's parade balloon and a prophetic nursery rhyme is leading Maine. These political bookends really should be sold off in a yard sale.

Nevertheless, Maine is now at a political crossroads. The legislature has joined in an unprecedented decision to slam dunk the state's budget, proposed by Governor Paul LePage. 

Rather than debate the governor's tax reform and budget, the state's legislature decided to write its own version of the budget. When the governor vetoed 64 line items in the legislature's budget, it caused both the House and the Senate to quickly override every veto. As a result, the governor then vetoed the entire budget.  No problem!  Today June 30, the Maine legislature voted to override the governor's veto, again. 

“When you’re sitting there poking the yes button every 15 seconds to override 128 vetoes, it’s hard to feel like you’re contributing a lot to moving the state forward,” said State Senator Roger J. Katz, a Republican (from Augusta) who has been an occasional LePage ally, but more often a critic. “The atmosphere here is one of depression,” he said.

Moreover, Maine's governor used his executive power to systematically fire a litany of state officials, without apparent cause. 

Now, the Maine legislature is considering actions to fire the governor by launching impeachment proceedings.
This political acrimony is totally unprecedented for Maine. In fact, Maine's Governor LePage doesn't "get" that his behavior has now passed the point of no return. He's a political Humpty Dumpty.

Governor Christie is no better off.  Unbelievably, Christie thinks he's qualified to be president of the United States!  What he doesn't get is that his support for LePage, during the governor's Maine re-election campaign, put him into bad company. It's like your mother told you, when your high school friends caused trouble. "Be careful who your friends are...."  Governor LePage and Governor Christie are bad company.  Stay away from their cafeteria lunch table.   

The New York Times Reports:
AUGUSTA, Me. — When Paul R. LePage, Maine’s combative governor, was seeking re-election last year, he told voters that his days of intemperate remarks were over. At a debate, Mr. LePage, who is of French descent, memorably said: “Even a Frenchman can be taught to cool down.”

And he can apparently heat up again, too.

In the last few weeks, Mr. LePage’s pugnaciousness has surprised even his critics, and prompted some to raise the specter of impeachment.

In a standoff that began with differences over tax policy, Mr. LePage has alienated just about the entire Legislature, including his fellow Republicans and erstwhile allies. He has called them names and gone on a veto spree, canceling a record number of bills in a flurry that would rival any Maine blizzard; in turn, the Legislature has responded with an override spree, reviving many bills unanimously.

On Monday, Mr. LePage is expected to veto the $6.7 billion, two-year state budget; the Legislature will return Tuesday, when it is expected to override the veto.

But the governmental dysfunction has become a sideshow to an even bigger controversy over Mr. LePage’s actions regarding a charter school for at-risk youths. The school had hired Mark Eves, the Democratic speaker of the House and a LePage foe, as its next president, starting Wednesday. Mr. LePage said Mr. Eves was unfit to lead the school, and threatened to withhold more than $500,000 in annual state money unless the hiring was rescinded; the school, a nonprofit fearing the loss could threaten private matching funds and lead to its closing, did so.

Mr. Eves accused the governor of blackmailing the school and threatened to sue him.

The governor’s actions have infuriated many who say he overstepped his executive authority; a group of Democrats and independents in the Legislature is researching how and whether to impeach him. Democratic leaders are taking a cautious approach, but have said nothing is off the table. An anti-LePage rally is being planned here for noon on Tuesday.

“Things have gone way off the rails, and there’s a real question about whether he’s fit to govern,” said Phil Bartlett, chairman of the state Democratic Party. “I support legislators getting to the bottom of this and making sure there’s accountability.”

Lawmakers say they are exhausted and frustrated.


For one thing, Maine’s problems, like its lagging economy, are not being addressed.

Mr. LePage declined an interview request. But Rick Bennett, chairman of the state Republican Party, defended the governor as a change agent, someone who provided “a disruptive energy,” in a good way, and who had “shaken Augusta to its roots.”

“He doesn’t have a lot of patience for people who don’t see the urgency for reform that he does,” said Mr. Bennett, who described the atmosphere as “acrid.”

The animosity dismays many who are proud of Maine’s tradition of civility and bipartisanship.

“Right now, we have an absurd, vitriolic, vindictive state of affairs,” said Amy Fried, a political scientist at the University of Maine.

Mr. LePage was emboldened by his election in November to a second term. While he failed to win a majority, he exceeded expectations by winning 48 percent of the vote, five percentage points ahead of his Democratic challenger. Republicans also recaptured control of the Senate, with 20 of 35 seats, and trimmed the Democratic majority in the House to 78-68 (with five independents).

“The governor could claim a mandate and had a tremendous amount of political capital, but in the last six months it has seemingly slipped away,” Mr. Katz said.

The problems began with Mr. LePage’s desire to eliminate the income tax by increasing and broadening the sales tax. 

But, he failed to engage his own party in advance, and Republican legislators balked.

Among them was Senator Tom Saviello. “The governor is a businessman, a former C.E.O. whose method is to do what he wants,” Mr. Saviello said of Mr. LePage, who was the general manager of a 14-store discount chain. “But I have to figure out what’s best for the people of Franklin County.”

Mr. LePage also has refused to release money for bond issues approved by voters. And he declared that he would veto every bill sponsored by a Democrat until Democrats supported his proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate Maine’s income tax. Democrats said the governor had no plan for filling the $1.7 billion hole that eliminating the income tax would create.

In mid-June, after the Legislature passed a budget that did not include his tax-cut proposals, the governor showed off a Christmas tree outside his office. It was adorned with the pictures of legislators he said had loaded up the budget with wasteful spending projects, often called pork. He produced a pink plastic pig and squeaked it.

And he extended his veto threat to include any bill sponsored by Republicans, saying they had conspired with Democrats to pass the budget.

“I want to show that for five months they wasted our time, and this time I’m going to waste a little of their time,” said Mr. LePage, who went on to veto 64 line items in the budget.

Mr. Bennett, the Republican Party chairman, said Mr. LePage felt justified in taking these steps because the budget “didn’t reflect the reason he got re-elected.”

The effect has been to unify the Republicans and Democrats.

“Right now, the Legislature is united in lock step and opposed to the governor,” said Mark Brewer, a political scientist at the University of Maine. “They view this as an institutional fight rather than a partisan fight.”

All of this set the stage for the fury that erupted last week when Mr. LePage threatened to halt state financing to the Good Will-Hinckley charter school if it allowed Mr. Eves to become its president.

“Speaker Eves has been an ardent foe of charter schools for his entire political career; then he turns around and gets hired to run a charter school — whose board is chaired by Eves’s own State House employee — for a cushy job worth about $150,000 in total compensation,” Mr. LePage said in a statement explaining his actions.

The school said in response that the board chairman to whom the governor referred does not serve on the board that had hiring authority and had recused himself “from any even tangential involvement in considering Speaker Eves’s application.” 

It said the school conducted a rigorous national search for a new president and that the votes of its board of directors in hiring Mr. Eves were unanimous.

Mr. Bennett said that the governor had discretion over the use of the money in question and that he was well within his legal rights to withhold it.

Representative Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent, was among those who began researching impeachment proceedings last week on the grounds of abuse of authority, misuse of assets and unbecoming conduct.

“You can’t leverage state assets to intimidate a private entity,” he said.

The state’s biggest newspaper, The Portland Press Herald, has called for a House investigation of the Eves affair and said that, unless new information emerged justifying the governor’s action, he should be impeached and tried by the Senate.

So far, more than a dozen independents and Democrats have joined the impeachment effort, Mr. Evangelos said, but many more are holding back.

Mr. Katz, chairman of the Government Oversight Committee, said on Friday that he expected the committee and the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to begin an investigation of the episode.

He added with a sigh: “Summer can’t come soon enough.”
Correction: June 30, 2015

An article on Monday about the conflict between the governor of Maine and the State Legislature misstated, in some editions, the amount of a budget shortfall that Democratic lawmakers say would be created by a plan to eliminate the state income tax. It is $1.7 billion, not $1.7 million.

Governor LePage and Governor Christie are political bookends. 
Americans who want to know what kind of a US president Governor Christie would be should take a look at Maine. Both men are political failures.

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