After House rebukes LePage, fate of bipartisan budget rests in Senate

Good morning from Augusta, where the Senate today will decide whether to carve into the $6.7 billion two-year budget that took months to negotiate, or keep it whole.

In a rapid-fire series of votes late last night, the House of Representatives opted to keep the spending plan intact when large, bipartisan majorities easily overturned an unprecedented 64 line-item vetoes by Gov. Paul LePage. The governor had struck from the budget spending on health care, education, drug rehabilitation, job training and more — including a few of his own spending measures — in an effort to protest the budget process by wasting lawmakers’ time.

When more GOP lawmakers sided with Democrats to override the governor’s vetoes than supported the budget in the first place, the votes became a statement to LePage. When voting was done, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle rose for standing ovations.

The Senate is in for 126 veto override votes. It only takes a simple majority to turn back line-item vetoes, so the budget’s fate will likely lie in the hands of the majority Republicans in the Senate. The 15 Democrats in the upper chamber are all but guaranteed to rebuke LePage’s showmanship, and only three of their GOP colleagues will be needed to override on any given vote.

My colleague Chris Cousins — man of many songs — will keep you updated on how things go.

Over in the House, lawmakers may consider several welfare reform bills that passed in the Senate yesterday, including a bipartisan move to ensure legally present noncitizens, most of whom are asylum seekers, have access to General Assistance. It’s an issue that’s haunted Democrats, who have sought to protect that population from LePage’s efforts to kick them off state assistance.

With people’s livelihoods on the line — especially in Portland and Lewiston — it’s a vote worth watching.

As always, check regularly for updates. And, if you somehow have still not signed up, click here to subscribe to receive the Daily Brief in your email inbox every morning. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

A move to the Left for U.S. Democrats

A new Gallup poll indicates that a combined 47 percent of national Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents identify as both socially liberal and economically moderate or liberal.

About one in four Democrats is a “pure liberal,” the company reports, meaning they are both socially and fiscally liberal, while another 22 percent are socially liberal and fiscally moderate.

Together, that’s a significantly more liberal party than in 2007, the last time there was an open Democratic primary for president, and more liberal still than in 2001, when Gallup began this poll.

gallup demsPut another way, “Democratic candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination face a significantly more left-leaning party base than their predecessors did over the last 15 years,” the polling agency writes.

Gallup writes:

“Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton faces a more liberal base than she did when she last ran for president in 2008, and no doubt will be calibrating her positions accordingly. The shift in the electorate may help explain the attention being garnered by long-shot candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont who has used the label “socialist” to describe himself and who is avowedly liberal across the board. Two other announced Democratic candidates — former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Republican senator from Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee — have taken liberal positions in the past. In the 2016 election, they will be seeking to connect with the electorate on that basis, while also attempting to position themselves against Clinton on specific issues.”

Still, a Democratic primary isn’t the same thing as a general election. A winning candidate for the Democrats is one who can successfully woo progressive voters while not coming off as a complete alien to independent and conservative voters later in the election cycle.

Worth noting: Gallup reported recently that the GOP faithful and Republican-leaning independents are also becoming more liberal.

Check out the poll and analysis from Gallup here. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

Reading list

The forecast for Maine’s millennial farmers? It’s bleak.

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If you’re anything like me — heck, if you’re anything like most of Maine — you probably know at least a few young people who have opted to buck an economy that seems increasingly dominated by service jobs to take a stab at farming here in Maine.

The allure of The Good Life is real, especially for many of my millennial brethren and sistren who so dearly value local economies and slow, quality food.

But are they setting themselves up for failure? This one statistic, reported by Danielle Walczak in a special BDN report, paints a grim picture: In 2012, six out of 10 Maine farms recorded net losses. You are more likely to go into debt as a farmer than to succeed, or even to eke out a living.

Still, more and more people — including lots of young people — are turning to the soil and the barn. In her captivating longform piece, Walczak explores why. Do yourself a favor and give it a read. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

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.