Daily Brief: LePage declares emergency, shuts down state offices

Expecting an onslaught of snow and wind, Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday announced that he had declared a state of emergency, shutting down all state offices and urging Mainers to stay off the roads. 

“Travel conditions will be life-threatening, and widespread power outages are probable,” LePage wrote in the emergency proclamation. Much of the state is braced for a snowstorm that is forecast to deliver blizzard conditions in the coastal counties, and in the capital region. There have already been more than 1,000 cancellations statewide

“The amount of snow and the high winds, along with blowing and drifting snow, makes this storm dangerous for many Mainers,” LePage said. “We want everyone to stay off the roads and stay safe.”

The closure of state offices means most points of entry for residents to interact with the government — such as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Department of Health and Human Services offices and Career Centers — will be closed and thousands of state employees will take the day off.

Legislative leaders had already canceled Tuesday’s sessions of the House and Senate, along with all committee meetings. The state’s Supreme and District courts are also closed for Tuesday, and some courts are scheduling late starts for Wednesday.

Don’t forget to sign up to receive the Daily Brief in your inbox every morning. 

How I learned to love the tax hike

That Gov. Paul LePage’s tax reform proposal includes an increase in the sales tax was a surprise to some — and an unwelcome one at that to some legislative Republicans for whom any tax hike is anathema.

While LePage’s broadening of the sales tax base is meant to pay for decreases in income tax and the elimination of the estate tax, The New York Times reports it’s still part of a larger move among Republican governors to move into what was once the “forbidden territory” of tax increases:

At least eight Republican governors have ventured into this once forbidden territory: There are proposals for raising the sales tax in Michigan, a tax on e-cigarettes in Utah, and gas taxes in South Carolina and South Dakota, to name a few. In Arizona, the new Republican governor has put off, in the face of a $1 billion budget shortfall, a campaign promise to eliminate the unpopular income tax there.

Adam Nagourney and Shaila Dewan, the article’s authors, report that the new willingness among some GOP governors to raise some taxes is pragmatic, rather than philosophical.

They cite a National Association of State Budget Offices warning that states were not raking in enough revenue to support basic services and meet new demand for increased spending on education and prisons — two topics that should sound familiar to those who follow Maine politics.

Collins, King at odds over Keystone XL

Maine’s two senators — independent Angus King and Republican Susan Collins — like getting along. They really like it. Their two offices regularly send joint press releases. King endorsed Collins’ re-election last year. The two senators are friendly in a way you don’t always see between a state’s two delegates to the upper chamber in Congress.

But on the Keystone XL pipeline, the two are divided. Last night, Senate Democrats blocked –twice — the advancement of a bill to approve the construction of the controversial large-diameter crude oil line from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska.

King voted to stall the bill’s movement, saying he “could not be more convinced” that Keystone XL was a bad deal for the country. Collins voted to advance the bill to a final vote.

“The pipeline will facilitate the development of dirty, climate-harming oil when the United States should focus its attention on transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy,” King said in a written statement. “It would only result in about 35 long-term jobs, and it appears likely that the oil will be exported overseas. All of this does not even begin to address the underlying issue here: the Senate should not be in the business of issuing building permits for construction projects.”

Collins had no official statement on the vote, but has said in the past that the pipeline would create jobs and decrease U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

Reading list

E-edition of BDN free for 2 days during storm

Newspaper delivery will likely be slowed by the storm, and we want to ensure the daily paper can be available at the start of the day without interruption. So on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Bangor Daily News is making its E-Edition — a digitized version of the printed newspaper — free to everyone.  You can view the E-Edition by clicking here.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.