Republicans and Democrats alike have raised concerns in recent weeks that progress on the biennial state budget bill has been hampered by Gov. Paul LePage’s refusal to allow Maine Revenue Services to run numbers related to the various tax reform proposal that have been under discussion recently.
That kind of analysis, which leads to estimates about how much revenue the various changes would erase or produce, represents a crucial part of the budget-writing process.
During a news conference Friday at the Blaine House, I asked LePage if he had in any way interfered with Maine Revenue Services doing that analysis, which had been rumored around the State House. This was his response:
“No, I haven’t. What I said, so you make it very clear, I never stopped them. What I’ve asked, and I asked them two years ago and I asked again last week, is when you have requests, would you be kind enough to come through the governor’s office so that we’re all on the same page. They wrote a letter to Mr. Rosen and asked him to do some work and not to let me know so I am taking action on that. I reminded the Appropriations Committee that they need to come through me if they want anything. If they want information you’re going to ask me for it. I’ll give it to them.”
On Monday, I acquired a copy of the letter in question, which contradicts a couple of the governor’s assertions. First, the email that contained the letter was sent to Micki Mullen, who is LePage’s scheduler, as well as Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen, who is a member of LePage’s Cabinet. Second, the letter itself says nothing about concealing anything from LePage.
I sent the letter to LePage’s office to confirm it’s the one LePage referred to on Friday.
“Note the letter is not addressed to the governor,” wrote LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett in response. “It is to Commissioner Rosen.”
Staffers for both Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee said Monday that the committee never received the analysis requested by Sen. James Hamper, a Republican from Oxford who serves as the committee’s Senate chairman.