Happy hump day. Cold enough for you?
Lawmakers continue to orient themselves to the monumental task of deliberating and disposing of hundreds of bills, which made for a quiet day at the State House Tuesday, compared to what’s to come. The House and Senate return to session today, for the most part for the routine work of sending bills to committees.
Gov. Paul LePage continues to make news with statements to reporters that have doubled down on his prior call for the ouster of Maine Community College System President John Fitzsimmons. LePage has not backed away from his criticism, though Fitzsimmons on Tuesday turned the tables on the governor with a statement that outlined how LePage’s austerity in state spending is contributing to the problem. The situation is feeding a larger discussion about funding in the community college system, which has been upstaged for months by financial ire in the University of Maine System. As we have in the past, the BDN will be following the situation closely.
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All of our budget questions answered?
Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte joined LePage’s Office of Policy and Management in June of last year but for the most part has been publicly silent in the position since then. On Wednesday, LaBonte will join LePage top budget officials — Acting Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen and and Mike Allen, associate commissioner for tax policy — for an informational session with reporters.
For those of us who have been working to provide our readers with budget information and insight, this will be a prime opportunity to ask all the questions that have been piling up. Most media organizations will likely cover the event and go into it with their own set of questions. It should be a rich day for politics news.
Plunging energy prices bad for policy work?
Gasoline and home heating oil are both headed to $2 a gallon, which is welcome news for anyone writing checks to stay warm, but now the Maine Public Utilities Commission has more good news: The price of electricity is also eroding.
The PUC announced Tuesday that Central Maine Power standard offer customers will see a more than 13 percent decrease in their electricity rates. Medium-sized businesses will see even more relief.
LePage, along with legislators from both parties, have been building up expectations for momentous action on energy policy this year with the intent of lowering costs for businesses. While most everyone understands that the cost of electricity and just about every other form of energy is headed in only one direction over the long term, low energy prices won’t provide the sense of urgency that usually forces otherwise head-butting lawmakers to accomplish something.
No, he’s not running for Senate, but…
LePage has made headlines in Maine and beyond lately by saying he will oppose independent Sen. Angus King in the 2018 election. He won’t, but statements like that allow him to make other points, such as his displeasure with King over the senator’s flip-flopping support, first for independent Eliot Cutler, then for Democrat Mike Michaud, in the gubernatorial election.